LTTE's recent attack on Anuradhapura airbase has somewhat overshadowed the continuous fighting that has been raging along the Mannar-Vavuniya defense lines. LTTE fighters and the Sri Lanka army have been locked in sporadic firefights in the region for the last 4 months. During the initial period of fighting, the army moved ahead of their defense lines on three fronts and captured a significant amount of rebel territory. However the LTTE launched a counterattack and the army lost the territory gained on one of the fronts within a day. After this incident, the army deployed its elite fighting formations such as the Commando regiment and the Special Forces in the area. These units, along with the 57th division have been launching small scale group based attacks on random LTTE bunkers near the frontline for the past month.
During one such attack two weeks ago, soldiers of the 57th division stormed into one of the LTTE bunkers from which the tigers had just been forced to flee. Inside the bunker, along with a few military items, the troopers found a diary. Following is a translation of one of the entries (it is believed that the diary was written by a female LTTE cadre):
"I have been stuck here for a month. The condition is getting worse. I want to go home. I want to see my mother".
In another such attack, SLA soldiers were able to recover 7 dead bodies of LTTE cadres in the general area of Vilathikulam. One of the rebels who got killed in the battle had his diary with him at the time of his death. One of the entries in it read:
"Today we were told we could have a bath but I don't think we'll get the chance. I haven't had a bath in 10 days. Promised supplies are not even here yet."
By reading above entries, one might think that the morale of LTTE is at an all time low. However this is not the case. LTTE cadres who are deployed Vavuniya-Mannar frontline bunkers are not from LTTE's hard core fighting formations such as Jeyanthan, Imran-Pandiyan, Charles Anthony or Victor. Most of the cadres manning the first bunker at at Vavuniya-Mannar border are inexperienced, young fighters (female cadres included). They are controlled by experience LTTE cadres who are in much safer defensive positions. LTTE gains two primary advantages by adopting this strategy:
1. Inexperienced cadres act as a human armor. Even though they are inexperienced, they are capable of offering plenty of resistance to the army and they cannot flee as the senior cadres are stationed to prevent such an act (fight-to-death scenario). Even if the army managed to breach the first defense line, experienced cadres manning the secondary defenses will meet an exhausted enemy.
2. Losses to LTTE's elite formations will be minimal. Even if the army launched a massive operation which the LTTE cannot sustain, elite cadres and secondary leaders will still be able to flee without being harmed as the 'human armor' will buy them time. This way the LTTE will save its elites for a more decisive battle (i.e- Mullaithiv, Kilinochci,etc.)
Although this method has so far worked well for the LTTE in most of the battles in Vavuniya region, its stability will be tested in the coming days. The Sri Lanka army too is using an effective strategy to counter this threat. Launching of small group based attacks instead of major offensives has increased the enemy's frustration.