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.