Sri Lankan troops seize Vannerikulam
Over 36 soldiers, 75 Tigers reported killed
Tuesday, 21 October 2008
Sri Lankan troops seized the strategic village Vannerikulam completely from Tamil Tigers following a two-month battle, cutting off a key supply route and moving the troops a step closer to capturing the militants' de facto capital in northern Sri Lanka, the military said Monday.
The battle for Vannerikulam village, about 15 miles west of the tigerl capital, was especially difficult because the tigers had erected a six-mile-long dirt mound from which they had a clear view of the surrounding territory, the military said in a statement.
Troops attached to the 57 Division and Task Force I, successfully continued their mission to capture the massive earth bund which has been described as the last obstacle in their march towards Kilinochchi, capturing over 1.5 Km stretch of earth bund in the West of Akkarayankulam and another stretch from the east of Akkarayankulam inflicting heavy damage on the LTTE.
“Casualties were reported from both sides as pitched battles erupted west and east of Akkarayankulam tank on Saturday and Sunday as LTTE exerted maximum effort to stop the capture of the earth bund.
But troops successfully captured a large extent of the earth bund on Saturday pushing the LTTE further northwards”, sources added.
Task Force I operating under the command Brigadier Shavendra Silva in the Kilinochchi district moving towards Nachchikuda by yesterday afternoon completed the task of capturing the earth bund from west of Pandiveddikulam to Akkarayan west, capturing one kilometres stretch of earth bund in the east of Vannerikulam.
With the capture of the one km stretch of earth bund in the east of Vannerikulam the Task Force I troops have fully captured the 10 Kilo meters stretch of earth bund between the west of Pandiveddikulam and towards the east of Vannerikulam.
Pandiveddikulam is located some seven Kilometres north east of Nachchikuda.
Army have commenced mop up operations in Vannerikulam, west of Kilinochchi Monday morning after taking control of the area following months of fighting as the death toll of soldiers over the weekend was placed at 33 and three others missing, the Defence Ministry said.
The area would be declared as fully liberated once the mop up operations are completed, the ministry said. Meanwhile, troops of both Task Force 1 and 57 division operating on the Kilinochchi front are consolidating their new positions acquired after heavy fighting since Saturday (Oct 18).
Troops of 57 division , breached the last LTTE defence south of Kilinochchi on Saturday from the east and the west of Akkarayankulam tank while Task Force 1 troops encircling Nachchikudha, further closed up the last major sea tiger foothold on the northwestern coast, the Defence ministry added.
During these clashes on the weekend, 33 soldiers were reported killed in action , 48 injured and 3 others were reported missing. Both ground and radio monitoring sources reported heavy damages to the terrorists . Troops during clearing operations found remains of 11 LTTE cadres along with 7 T-56 riffles, the defence ministry said.
Apart from the clearing operations in the Akkarayankulam area, 57 division troops operating on the eastern flank of the Kilinochchi front attacked a group of terrorists in the area north of Kokavil last morning. Troops confirmed heavy damages to the LTTE while the army did not suffer casualties .
The Task Force I troops continued their march towards the north of the earth bund capturing Adampamodai village which is located 10 Km north east of Nachchikuda by yesterday afternoon.
With the capture of the Adampamodai village Task Force I troops can launch attacks towards Pooneryn in the North, Kiranchi or Valaipadu in the West, Nachchikuda in the South or Kilinochchi in the East, as they are now operating in an area with access to all directions.
Security Forces confirmed that over 75 Tiger cadres were killed on Saturday in both 57 and Task Force I battle fronts and more than 125 cadres were injured.
Military analyst Susantha Seneviratne, a retired colonel, said capture of Vannerikulam could be helpful in troop deployment for a longer offensive but it does not guarantee an easy path to Kilinochchi.
"It's not going to be easy," Seneviratne said, adding that the military's success depends upon reacting quickly to the rebels' moves. "Daily the situation changes."
Seneviratne added that the military will face another challenge as the rebels exploit the monsoon season to their advantage. The heavy rains will make the army's tanks less effective on soggy ground and poor weather will also mute the power of the air force.
Both ground and radio monitoring sources reported heavy damages to the LTTE, it said. “Troops during clearing operations found remains of 11 LTTE cadres along with 7 T-56 riffles,” it said. Apart from the clearing operations in the Akkarayankulam area, 57 division troops operating on the eastern flank of the Kilinochchi front attacked a group of tiger rebels in the area north of Kokavil last morning.
Troops confirmed heavy damages to the rebels without suffering any casualties, the officials said. Meanwhile, troops carried out their offensives in the general areas of the Vannerikkulam, Chinnakkonailai, Manniyakulam and Kunachakulam during the day and 12 soldiers sustained injuries during the operations due to mine explosions and LTTE mortar fire.