The base was heavily fortified with armed LTTE cadres and also, heavily mined. The base also had several underground bunkers, connected by tunnels. This is one of the bases where LTTE intelligence leaders met and planned their missions.
On January 12, LTTE intelligence sent a secret message to their military intelligence area leaders to attend an important meeting at the above mentioned base.
In Colombo, military intelligence was well informed of this scheduled meeting by an informant. Consequently, an intelligence official informed Sri Lanka Air Force of the date and time of the meeting.
On 14, two young fighter jet pilots were summoned before their commanding officer (for security purposes this column refrains from disclosing the names and ranks of those personnel). The commanding officer briefed the two pilots of their top-secret task and the importance of the operation.
Supersonic jets took off from the Katunayake Airbase runway towards their target. Within a couple of minutes, they released bombs on One Nine Base. Some leaders managed to escape through a tunnel, but the most important leaders fell victim, on the spot.
When the news reached the LTTE leadership, they did not allow any civilians to enter the area. Wounded LTTE cadres were transported to one of LTTE’s underground hospitals. The LTTE leadership had given instructions not to reveal the numbers died or their names, because it would demoralise fighting cadres, as well as the Tamil diaspora.
The air bombing was significant for the Air Force and intelligence because this was the first time one of LTTE’s main intelligence locations was bombed. Many of their intelligence operatives were killed in the attack.
However, although the Air Force bombed One Nine Base, the LTTE’s intelligence operatives are still roaming around Colombo, and the rest of the island. One military intelligence officer said that the LTTE has hired Sinhalese and Muslims as spies. For example, in the past, the LTTE was able to hire two Army officers to function as spies and the military intelligence managed to identify them. One officer was court martialled and sentenced to life imprisonment. The other was handed over to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). A senior CID officer said that they will submit their report to the Attorney General’s Department to indict the accused officer.
The backbone of the Security Forces is intelligence. During the ceasefire period, the LTTE killed three intelligence officers, two of them from the Army and one from Police. Operatives and many officers fled the country for the sake of their security.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka Air Force bombed another LTTE target on January 14, in Vidattaltivu east, north of Mannar. It was an LTTE artillery gunnery position. The LTTE fired 122 mm artillery since morning towards advancing Army troops. Around 1:00 p.m. Air Force fighter jets bombed the LTTE artillery position and managed to inflict damage to the 122 mm gun. Artillery coordinator Mangalesh and eight cadres who operated the gun were seriously injured and admitted to Neyoman Hospital (an LTTE hospital located in Vidattaltivu). In the evening, Leader Mangalesh and two other cadres died.
Heavy fightingin Mannar
Pro-LTTE website Tamilnet said the LTTE killed 30 Sri Lanka Army soldiers in a battle in Mannar.
However, according to a senior military officer from Mannar, “When the LTTE is being defeated, they resort to this type of propaganda, in order to build up the moral of the Tamil diaspora. It is because of this reason they publish this type of false news.” He further said, “If any officer or soldier died, their bodies should lie in funeral parlours.” He added that there were only four soldier deaths and fifteen causalities.
The Army handed over 23 LTTE dead bodies, from January 1, up to 14, to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Some LTTE bodies were completely disfigured due to artillery and MBRL fire from the Army, which, therefore, had to be buried.
Troops are, at the moment, heading towards Mannar, Adampan Town and there is only one and half kilometre more to the Adampan town.
On January 10 morning, Sri Lanka Army Commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka arrived in Vavuniya Security Forces’ headquarters. He was received by Vavuniya Security Force Commander Maj. Gen. Jagath Jayasuriya.
There, 58 General Officer Command (GOC) Brigadier Shavindra de Silva briefed the Army Commander on the ongoing operation, and 57 GOC Brigadier Jagath Dias briefed the Commander on the ongoing operation in north Vavuniya and around the Madhu area.
The Army Commander listened to his field commanders and gave further instructions for operations.
A-32 Road from Mannar to Pooneryn is strategically important for both the Army and the LTTE.
Currently, 58 Division is commanded by Brigadier Shavindra de Silva, and his three brigades, 581, 582, 583 and commandoes are engaged in the Mannar operation, with the support of artillery.
Troops are moving from three directions: Admpan west, Parapakandal and Andankulam.
Consequently, the 581 Brigade was able to destroy nine LTTE bunkers in Parapakandal with the backing of MBRL and artillery and overrun the LTTE defence line. During early morning, tactical small groups entered the LTTE territory and destroyed more bunkers.
Also, the 582 Brigade is advancing from the west of Adampan, towards north Mannar. The LTTE, in the meantime, observed troop movements, and fired mortars and 122 mm artillery, towards the advancing troops. The Army suffered four deaths and 15 casualties. At the same time, the Army detected the location from where the artillery and mortar were fired and directed MBRL fire towards the area (Multi Barrel Rocket Launchers have the range of 20Km, and within 20 seconds, can fire 40 rounds of rockets). The result of Army artillery and MBRL fire was many, around 16, LTTE cadre deaths and more casualties, a battlefront source said.
The LTTE assigned three doctors from Kilinochchi to Neyoman Hospital in Vidattaltivu this week. Intelligence sources said these doctors were assigned because the LTTE casualty number was increasing by the day.
In 57 Division, commanded by Brigadier Jagath Dias, troops are moving towards west, north Vavuniya and Madhu. A senior officer said troops are moving slowly and steadily. While troops are advancing, they are defusing booby traps and landmines. The senior officer said, “We don’t want to rush unnecessarily and suffer casualties. Our objective is to kill a maximum number of enemies with minimum casualties to the Army, and we are changing our strategy and tactics from time to time.”
LTTE targets assessedby intelligence
While the battle is heating up in the north with the Army advancing towards LTTE targets, the LTTE too has their targets in Colombo, with the view to paralyse military operations. This column mentioned very clearly last week the economic targets the LTTE will aim at, as well as individuals such as the President, the Prime Minister, Minister Douglas Devananda, Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle or any other minister, the Defence Secretary, or TULF Leader V. Anandasangaree.
The Army Commander, Air Force Commander, Navy Commander, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and field commanders in battlefront can also become targets, when they are in Colombo.
One of the following ways would be used by the LTTE to eliminate their targets.
1. Suicide missions
2. RPG attack on a convoy
3. Landmine (the LTTE could infiltrate as labourers of the Ceylon Electricity Board, Sri Lanka Telecom and the Water Board, as well as plant bombs underground on main roads)
4. Food or water poisoning
5. Sniper gun fire
Army Commander’s comment
“I do not want to leave this problem to the next Army Commander,” Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka, who would be retiring in December, told defence correspondents on January 11, at the General’s house.
“We (the Armed Forces) are doing very well. And at the rate we are going, there will be major changes in the coming six to seven months. You will see a different LTTE then,” he said.
According to Gen. Fonseka, the LTTE has been losing its fighting cadres rapidly.
In the last two years, they had lost 2,300 cadres in the east and about 1,500 in the north, which had reduced their strength to about 4,500 cadres, he said.
“That they have been weakened is evident in the fact that they do not carry away their battlefield dead the way they used to. Earlier, our troops were not able to see LTTE bodies, now they do,” he added.
“Secondly, with dwindling cadre strength, they are throwing young girls into battle. In the recent attack on their bunker lines in Mannar, we recovered bodies of 16-year-old girls,” Gen. Fonseka said.
The LTTE cadres, Gen. Fonseka said, were good fighters and highly committed, but it was necessary to remember that most of their fighters had been forcibly recruited.
“Only 30% of the Tiger fighting cadres are volunteers. The rest have been forcibly recruited. These are sent to the frontlines and forced to fight to the finish by others standing behind them with guns pointed at them,” he said.
Asked how long it would take for the Sri Lankan Armed Forces to take the northern districts, collectively known as the Wanni, and where the Tigers were holed up, the General said: “We are not in a hurry.”
“We want to reduce their strength through our operations. It is a war of attrition,” he explained.
Giving reasons for the successes scored by the Army in the last two years, as compared to the past, Gen. Fonseka said that postings and commands were now being given purely on merit and not on seniority.
“I am sending the 15th on the line to do a job instead of the fifth, if the former is more competent,” he said.
The intelligence that the Armed Forces are getting now is also better.
According to the General, this is so because he has asked the infantry in the field to collect the ground intelligence.
And such hard intelligence was being shared with the other services to good effect, he added.
The Air Force had hit targets, both on land and sea, based on Army ground intelligence. Except for the last four ships, those sunk were taken up on the basis of Army intelligence, the General claimed.
Above all, there was “very good” coordination between the Armed Forces and the country’s political leadership, he stressed.
Asked if he believed in a military solution to the ethnic conflict, the General said that he did not believe in a military solution.
“Ultimately, any solution will have to be political. But there can be a political solution only after the LTTE had laid down arms,” he clarified.
And it was the task of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces to break the LTTE militarily and thus pave the way for a political solution, he said.
“Once the LTTE is out of the way, the country’s political leaders can discuss devolution of power with Tamil parties and groups, which are in the democratic stream,” the General stressed.