Tiger manoeuvres pressure SLA

[TamilNet, Sunday, 21 May 2000, 11:46 GMT]
The special forces of the Liberation Tigers which on Saturday overran the Sri Lankan army garrison and other defensive positions in Chavakachcheri and its environs, fifteen kilometers south of Jaffna, are attacking the Kilali base and the remaining Sri Lanka army positions in the peninsula's Thenmaradchi division said the special noon news broadcast of the Voice of Tigers today.

The Sri Lankan army's 52-3 brigade and the Sri Lankan Navy's Special Boat Squadron are based in Kilali, a key point on the Jaffna lagoon's coast.

The Special Boat Squadron is an elite fighting unit of the Sri Lankan security forces, trained by the US Navy Seals in a secluded base in the island's southern coast. A complement of army commandos was also sent to reinforce the defences of the base when the Tigers overran the Pallai town and rapidly advanced close to the outer defences of Kilali last month.

Meanwhile, a journalist who made phone contact from Jaffna last night said that the SLA was pulling out troops from the Thenmaradchi sector. The withdrawn troops are temporarily camped in several parts of the Vadamaradchi division in the northeastern sector of the Jaffna peninsula he claimed. His report could not be independently verified.

With the fall of Chavakachcheri, Sri Lankan government troops are in danger of being trapped between the LTTE forces poised to advance on the link road from Kodikamam to Vadamaradchi through Varani and the Tiger troops that are holding the Thenmaradchi division beyond Eluthumadduval and Kilali in the large region they captured after overrunning the strategic Elephant Pass military base complex on April 22.

If the army were to vacate Kodikamam and Kilali to preempt the LTTE's entrapping manoeuvres or if the Tigers were to overwhelm the two garrisons then the Sri Lankan government forces would lose their hold on Jaffna's Thenmaradchi division completely.

Control over Thenmaradchi would give the Tigers a singular logistical advantage for advancing on several fronts into the Waligamam division where the SLA's sprawling Palaly base complex is situated. The roads radiating north and west from Thenmaradchi would give direct access from the Vanni to Waligamam and Vadamaradchi.

Total control of Thenmaradchi would also free LTTE's special forces, infantry units and artillery and mortar batteries that are engaged in operations against the SLA in the region now.

The Sri Lankan government, however, insists that it is now in a position to turn the tide with the new weapons systems it shipped to Jaffna last week, including a powerful vehicle mounted 24 barrel rocket launcher system. Military sources in Vavuniya claimed that it might take at least two weeks for SLA personnel to study and operate the new weapon systems effectively against the Tigers.

Even then, the newly acquired armaments may not be of much use in checking the Tiger offensive if nothing is done about the fundamental difficulty in accurately locating and identifying the LTTE's artillery and 120 mm mortar positions.

Defence analysts in Colombo said the problem has dogged the SLA since the Tigers began capturing artillery and 120 mm mortars from government garrisons they have overwhelmed since 1996. The SLA has so far not been able to locate, damage or destroy any of the artillery or 120 mm mortar positions of the LTTE.

The difficulty has persisted despite the acquisition and deployment of several units of the sophisticated Fire Finder radar system from the US in 1997.


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