Tigers breach Omanthai defences

[TamilNet, Monday, 04 August 1997, 23:59 GMT]
The LTTE confirmed on Sunday that their forces had launched an attack on Sri Lankan defences at Omanthai. Over a hundred members of Sri Lanka's security forces are reported killed, as well as 126 Tamils when the Tigers broke into the fortifications, and intense fighting followed. This is the third major operation the Tigers have launched on Sri Lanka's biggest offensive in the Tamil homelands.

The LTTE in a statement today that their attack started at 10.30 on Friday night, and fighting was said to have continued until 6am the following morning. Arms and large stocks of ammunition were captured from the defences.

The LTTE said that their forces had breached the heavily defended fortifications at Omanthai. This Tamil town was captured by the Sri Lankan army after heavy fighting about two months ago. Since then, the deserted town (residents had fled due to the indiscriminate Sri Lankan shelling that preceded the ground offensive) had been turned into a major staging area.

The Sri Lankan army has confirmed the LTTE offensive, but claims to have killed at least two hundred Tigers, while admitting to the loss of 67. However, the Sri Lankan government routinely exaggerates Tamil casualty figures, while playing down its own to maintain morale among the troops and the general Sinhala public.

The Sri Lankan government has banned reporters from entering the Tamil homelands, thereby facilitating the manipulation of 'news' from the region, and preventing the verification of its claims.

The Sri Lankan army claims to have recovered the bodies of 107 Tamil fighters, but the Colombo based Sunday Times weekly said its military contacts admitted only 45 Tamil bodies had been recovered when the government claim was issued.

The Sri Lankan army also claims that the LTTE attacks were repulsed, but this is standard declaration issued after any Tiger attack. Somewhat paradoxically, the army also said that one Tiger unit 'was allowed to come in and then surrounded'.

This attack is the third major operation conducted by the Tigers against the Sri Lankan operation 'Jaya Sikiru'. The first attack took place in early June at Thandikulum, deep behind government lines, the Tigers smashed the HQ of the 55 Brigade, killing over 300 Sinhalese troops, while losing 80 of their own troops.

The second counter-attack took place in late June, at Periyamadu when a newly built fire-base was overrun and a hundred soldiers killed for the loss of 85 Tigers. In this attack, an artillery piece was captured, along with 300 shells, bringing the total number of heavy guns in the LTTE arsenal up to at least five.

Operation 'Jaya Sikiru' has struggled to maintain headway against fierce LTTE resistance and the LTTE counter attacks have slowed the operation considerably. The three month old operation has covered less than a third of its intended ground and much of the area occupied by the Sri Lankan army has not been secured as the SLA does not have enough troops.

An LTTE official admitted that casualties in the latest attack had been higher than in the previous attacks, but said that Omanthai had been extremely heavily fortified, yet had been penetrated. "No Sri Lankan position can be considered secure. We will endeavor to attack Sri Lankan military concentrations at every opportunity".


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