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 Post subject: Road to Jaffna open after 23 years
 Post Posted: Sat Jan 10, 2009 9:12 am 
A9 - Road to Jaffna open after 23 years
Troops capture Elephant Pass

Saturday, 10 January 2009

The army yesterday captured Elephant Pass and brought the entire A-9 Highway under government control after a lapse of 23 years amidst heavy resistance from the LTTE, which later retreated to Mulliyan.

The 53 and 55 Divisions advanced from Soranpattu, which the army had bagged on Thursday and linked up with 58 Division. All three divisions will now concentrate on the LTTE-held areas such as Chempiyanpattu, Chundikulam and Kaddaikadu.

In 2000, the army lost its strategically important Elephant Pass camp, which had been established in the 1970s to serve as the main base for several camps in the Vanni. The LTTE had wrested control of Elephant Pass by launching its Unceasing Wave operation backed by small MBRLs which took the security forces by surprise. The LTTE had made an abortive attempt to capture the Elephant Pass military installation in 1991.

The 53 Division under the command of Brigadier Kamal Gunaratne and the 55 Division under the command of Brigadier Prasanna Silva advancing from Muhamalai and Kilali front reached this historic moment yesterday afternoon after they linked up with the troops of the 58 Division who had taken control of the Elephant Pass south by Tuesday. The 58 division under the command of Brigadier Shavendra Silva cleared the path for the 53 Division and 55 Division to move towards the South of Jaffna peninsula compelling LTTE cadres to vacate many of the areas they held in the southern part of the Jaffna peninsula.

With the capture of Elephant Pass, troops were able to clear 96 kilometre stretch of the A-9 road between Omanthai and Muhamalai after two years of military operations in Vanni and in the Northern battle fronts.

According to military officials this is the first time the A-9 road is open upto Jaffna under military control after Security Forces lost control of it after the departure of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in the late 1980 s. The Security Forces lost control of Elephant Pass in April, 2000 which goes into the history as the biggest setback of the Sri Lanka Army.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa addressing the nation last evening said the liberation of the A-9 highway would link the South with the North after many years and bring all communities together. He said when the army lost Elephant Pass in 2000, 359 soldiers and officers had perished in battle. About 349 troops had gone missing with 2,500 injured.

The Sri Lanka Army lost its most senior Deputy General Officer Commanding the 54 Division Brigadier Percy Fernando and three Brigade Commanders Lt. Colonel Bhathiya Jayatilleke, Haris Hewaarachchi and Neil Akmeemana during the Elephant Pass withdrawal in the year 2000.

It was Major General Denzil Kobbekaduwa who commanded the troops to liberate Elephant Pass camp once the LTTE lay siege to it in July 10, 1991.

The troops under the command of Major General Denzil Kobbekaduwa inducted in Vettilaikerni on July 14 finally liberated the camp on August 4, 1991.

The Elephant Pass camp also goes into the military history with the supreme sacrifice made by Corporal Hasalaka Gamini who sacrificed his life to defend of the Army camp from the explosive laden bulldozer that was coming into the camp in 1991. He was posthumously decorated with the highest gallantry award for his sacrifice.

The Sri Lankan military on Friday said that with the fall of Elephant Pass, troops were now poised to capture the remaining LTTE strong points at Mulliyan, Chempiyanpattuwa, Chundikulama and Kaddaikadu. The Defence Ministry said here the “end-game of LTTE’s protracted separatist cause is reaching its final stages” as the advancing forces overran the highly-fortified LTTE northern garrison at Elephant Pass.

“In the face of concentrated armour, artillery, infantry and mechanised infantry assaults led by close-support SLAF raids, LTTE terrorists pulled off from the garrison township, with soaring casualties and losses, towards Mulliyan,” it said.

The military said troops were now advancing eastwards and had engaged in daylong clashes on the outskirts of Vaddakachchi, one of the strongest remaining LTTE strongholds in Wanni.

EPS was earlier occupied by the Dutch during the colonial rule in the island, who had built a fort in 1760, identifying its strategic value in maintaining vital military not allowed logistic supply with the Jaffna mainland.

Pass and Kurinchattiv had been the largest salt producing areas on the island, with a combined area of 100 acres producing more than 85,000 metric tonnes per year, before the area was engulfed by the bitter fighting for decades.

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