Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Heavy fighting near Kilali, Mannar FDLs

Heavy fighting erupted between the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) ahead of forward defense lines in Kilali and Mannar, yesterday(24th) and today(25th).

Fighting in Kilali was triggered when the LTTE attempted to infiltrate SLA controlled territory in a pre dawn offensive. SLA soldiers deployed in the forward defense lines detected the LTTE advance while it was crossing the no-man's-land and were able to stage a surprise counterattack. LTTE cadres, knowing that they were at a disadvantage, tried to return to their bunker line. However they received casualties while fleeing and at least 8 of their bunkers in FDL caught fire due to small arms fire from SLA soldiers and from artillery fire directed at their FDL from artillery bases in the region. Dead bodies of two LTTE cadres have been recovered by the army and another 10-15 bodies could be observed scattered in the no-man's-land ahead of FDLs. Two SLA personnel were killed and 30 others were wounded in the incident. Most SLA casualties were due to LTTE artillery fire.

Meanwhile SLA launched a small scale offensive in the Mannar region today morning which was immediately met with heavy resistance. Soldiers of the 57th division advanced more than half a kilometer into LTTE controlled territory amidst heavy artillery and small arms fire. Two soldiers were killed and another 14 have been wounded so far in the offensive. LTTE casualty figures are not available as of yet. Pro rebel media were quick to categorize the offensive as "a major military thrust to capture Wanni" but DefenceNet can confirm that this claim is entirely false. The goal of the offensive was to re adjust the forward defense line which was breached in recent clashes.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

LTTE's Vishwamadu base hit hard

Sri lanka air force (SLAF) fighter jets carried out consecutive air strikes on LTTE's Vishwamadhu base yesterday (21st) and today (22nd). Initial bombing run was performed at 12.15pm yesterday and the base was hit again by SLAF bombers today at around 7.00 am. The second air strike targeted the LTTE cadres who were engaged in recovering usable items from areas targeted in the first raid. As with most air strikes, LTTE casualty details cannot be confirmed as of now.

Vishwamadhu base was frequently used by LTTE's Imran regiment. Several of their ammunition and fuel dumps were said to be located inside the base premises. UAV footage shows secondary explosions after the initial bombing run which suggest that at least one of the ammo or fuel dumps was hit.

Imran-Pandiyan is regarded as one of the most powerful fighting formations within the LTTE. This unit, along with Charles Anthony brigade, has not been used in any major battle since the 2002 CFA. The tigers seem to be keeping their two most experienced brigades in reserve. LTTE is most likely to use these brigades to defend Wanni from a possible army invasion but the possibility of these units being deployed in a major LTTE offensive to recapture Jaffna peninsula cannot be overruled either.

You can see images of Imran regiment here (Released by LTTE photography unit).

Thursday, September 20, 2007

SLAF raid targets LTTE ammo dump: Puthukuduirippu

Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) fighter jets carried out a bombing sortie today morning targeting a suspected LTTE ammo storage located in the Mullaithiv district. The raid involved Kfir multi role fighters and Mig27 ground attack aircraft.

Suspected warehouse was located in the Puthukuduirippu area which is a core part of LTTE operations.The target had been monitored by military intelligence for a long time and was the target of multiple aerial surveillance missions. Judging by the secondary explosions which occurred after the initial bombing run, it is assumed that the ammo dump was successfully destroyed. However this is yet to be confirmed by ground intelligence and enemy communications intercepts.

Monday, September 17, 2007

"Blue Water Navy"

Sri Lanka Navy's (SLN) latest mission to thwart LTTE arms smuggling will no doubt be recorded as one of the most successful Naval missions of all time. This is not only because the mission caused the destruction of 3 large LTTE vessels in less than 24 hours but also because it demonstrated SLN warship fleet's ability to engage in deep sea missions.

  Image: SLNS Sayura Offshore Patrol vessel

Naval intelligence had previously collected information about 4 LTTE arms vessels which were bound to Sri Lanka. Their destinations were Mullaithiv, Challei, Alampil and Chundikual beaches. However the tigers had devised a new plan to avoid detection. The large vessels full of weapons were never to be beached. They were to stay in deep seas acting as floating warehouses while LTTE cadres used smaller craft such as fishing trawlers to smuggle the weapons in to their territory. This method not only reduced risk of detection but it also acted as a damage control mechanism; If a trawler was hit, only a small portion of the cargo would be destroyed. The rest would be safe in the main vessel. Unfortunately for the tigers, locations of the floating warehouses were picked up by naval intelligence.

Following the intel warning, SLN command dispatched four warships to investigate the targets. These were SLNS (Sri Lanka Navy Ship) Sayura, SLNS Samudura, SLNS Suranimala and SLNS Shakthi. One highly trained Special Boat Squadron (SBS) attack team was on board each of the four ships. Their mission was to board the enemy vessels and take control if the sea tigers surrendered.  Two supply ships (A520 and A521) were sent to resupply the warships if needed.

Although the intel information was correct, it took 10 days to find the first LTTE vessel. The detection was made in international waters 1200Km away from Colombo. LTTE's 50 meter long Manyoshi vessel was surrounded by two SLN warships. However the vessel opened fire on SLN ships using 5.0mm (commonly known as "five zero") weapons and tried to flee when they were asked to identify themselves. Manyoshi was sunk on 10th of September at 10.30 am local time.

The second ship too was detected in the same area several hours later. 50 meter long Sishin was discovered by the other two SLN warships. It too tried to flee and was sunk in the battle on 10th of September at 5.30pm.

3rd LTTE arms vessel was discovered 80km off the location where the second vessel was sunk. By this time, the two warships that destroyed Manyoshi had joined the rest. LTTE's 70 meter long Koshia arms vessel was now surrounded by four SLN warships. By this time, naval intelligence picked up a message to Koshiya from Wanni command. Message sender was Chelian; LTTE's new sea tiger leader. LTTE cadres on board the Koshiya were instructed to fire at SLN warships using 3 heavy 120mm mortars on board the ship. After firing several rounds, sea tigers reported back to their leader that it was impossible to get a clear target because of the rough seas. They were then ordered by Chelian to commit suicide and avoid capture. Koshiya too was sunk when it was hit by 76mm, 37mm, 30mm 25mm and 23mm cannon fire from SLN warships.

If the LTTE had the chance to upload the cargo on these ships, it would have been devastating for the army. On board were a large amount of 120, 122mm, 130mm and 152mm artillery shells, a fast attack craft of unknown type, a bulletproof vehicle, engine and spare parts for 3 light planes and a large collection of various weapons and ammunition including even torpedoes.

Meanwhile military intelligence has confirmed that a 4th LTTE arms ship bound to Mullaithiv had fled  after the destruction of the first 3 ships.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Did LTTE receive early information on Army's Silawathura offensive?

Few days ago, the Sri Lanka Army launched a medium scale offensive to capture Silawathurei area; a known sea tiger launching pad and a major LTTE supply hub. The operation was a top secret one and was well planned. It went according to plan except for one little unexpected twist; the heavy resistance which was expected from the LTTE was almost non existent. When the army's crack troops paradropped from Mi-17 helicopters, there were no tigers left to defend their turf. They had either fled into the jungles or had mixed in with the civilians. Did LTTE plan their retreat early? Did they receive early intel on a top secret military offensive? These are questions to which we may never know the answers.

When Special Forces reached the Silawathura sea tiger base premises, it had already been abandoned by the tigers. Only around 12 tigers were killed in the entire offensive. However the military was able to recover war related hardware from the base premises:

  • 25 Fiber Glass boats
  • 1 small boat loaded with explosives (possibly suicide craft)
  • 29 boat engines
  • 110  40mm mortar rounds
  • 269 81mm mortar round
  • 5000 assault rifle ammunition
  • 1 suicide jacket

But was this all the LTTE had in Silawathura? We don't think so. They maintained a major sea tiger base and had some valuable military hardware stationed there. The base was commanded by "Nambi" and it was defended by nearly 200 LTTE cadres (approximately 80 sea units and 120 land units). Previous military intelligence reports suggested that LTTE had the following military hardware stationed in the base:

  • 10 small sea tiger attack craft
  • 5 sea tiger craft fitted with 14.5mm cannons
  • 2 sea tiger craft fitted with 23mm cannons
  • 2 supply vessels fitted with 14.5mm cannons
  • 3 explosive laden suicide boats

One might think that the army had recovered all these boats after reading the previous paragraph. Army actually did find 25 Fibre Glass boats in the base but they were not attack craft. They seemed more likely to be fishing boats which the LTTE used as supply gatherers. What happened to the attack craft, weapons and ammunition storage? Did the LTTE move them to a safer location before the army advance? If so, where was the leak? These questions will no doubt trouble army's veteran commanders who planned and lead the Silawathura offensive.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Silawathurei Sea tiger base overrun

Sri Lanka Army (SLA) soldiers engaged in an offensive South of Mannar overran the main sea tiger base in Silawathurei region(Silawathura) today. LTTE cadres who were defending the area fled into surrounding jungles, keeping contact with security forces to a minimum. With the capture of sea tiger base, most of the offensive's objectives are now accomplished. However small scale search operations are continuing to hunt down rebels who fled into nearby jungles. At least 12 LTTE cadres have been killed during the offensive (the actual number may be higher than 12 as this is merely the number of bodies recovered by SLA) and 9 army members have been wounded.

The operation involved Special Forces units, Air Mobile Brigade and Sri Lanka Artillery. Before ground troop movement, heavy artillery fire was directed at enemy targets according to intel given by Special Forces long range surveillance teams who had penetrated LTTE defense lines earlier.

Silawathurei was used as a central hub in illegal arms smuggling and was a well known sea tiger launching pad. LTTE infiltrated this region after the 2002 ceasefire was signed. MI has confirmed that several suicide missions too had originated from this base.

Meanwhile pro LTTE media have been blaming the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) deep penetration units for a claymore explosion that resulted in the death of 9 civilians. DefenceNet can confirm that no SLA DPU units were active in the area on the said date.