|Division 55 bulldozed Chalai LTTE sea base - The Story
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|Author:||Saman [ Sun Feb 08, 2009 12:26 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Division 55 bulldozed Chalai LTTE sea base - The Story|
Troops of the 55th division capture Chalai Sea Tiger base
Division 55 bulldozed Chalai LTTE sea base - The Story
This Sea Tiger base which has a history that extends to over two decades was famous for intensive attacks in the waters, including deadly suicide attempts. Chalai, geographically, is rather inhospitable especially to infantry troops. The coastal line stretching from Nagar Kovil upto Chalai which the troops had to cross is covered with marble coloured sand where any movement is clearly visible even in the darkness. Since it is a lagoon area, the high sand dunes and thickets with thorny shrubs and trees was a natural obstacle the troops had to face.
Sunday, 8 February 2009
As the troops attached to the 55 Division commanded by Brigadier Prasanna de Silva (552 Brigade led by Col. Kapila Udalupola and 553 Brigade under Col. Mahinda Weerasuriya) overran the last Sea Tiger base with the capture of Chalai LTTE has lost its strongest and most fearsome fighting wing, the Sea Tigers. Brigadier Prasanna Silva was the former Special Forces Brigade Commander, who played a major role in the capture of the Eastern enclave of the guerrillas, Vakarai.
Chalai, geographically, is rather inhospitable especially to infantry troops. The coastal line stretching from Nagar Kovil upto Chalai which the troops had to cross is covered with marble coloured sand where any movement is clearly visible even in the darkness. Since it is a lagoon area, the high sand dunes and thickets with thorny shrubs and trees was a natural obstacle the troops had to face.
This Sea Tiger base which has a history that extends to over two decades was famous for intensive attacks in the waters, including deadly suicide attempts. According to military information it is from this point the LTTE launched the attack on the 'Ruhunu' and 'Nilwala' cargo ships anchored at the Mailady port on October 22 last year using a fleet of four Sea Tiger boats. The attack on a cargo vessel sailing in the Vadamarachchi Eastern coastal belt on January 22, 2008 was reported to have been launched from the Chalai Sea Tiger base. This was also the LTTE's main operational base to bring in arms and ammunition linking up with their international network. From Chalai they had monitored the movements of the Sri Lanka Navy with the help of a radar observation point.
The initial battle to capture the Chalai Sea Tiger base started on Saturday January 31st, 2009. The 55 Division planned the operation in two stages. The first was to cross the open terrain and the second was to cross the 350 metre long lagoon stretch between the two islands.
The LTTE offered its maximum resistance to hold back the Sri Lanka Army's advance. LTTE had excavated six huge `sand bunds' in the stretch from Chundikulam to Chalai with a massive number of Anti personnel mines and deadly booby traps laid in the entire area.According to ground sources Tigers fired 37 mm paddle guns, 30 mm canons and 12.7 mm guns that also can be mounted on boats."It was not only from the ground that the LTTE directed their attacks on us. They attacked from the sea as well," Brigadier Prasanna de Silva added explaining the tough battle they faced.
In this open terrain that reduces the speed of the infantry troops, additional fire and mechanical power is vital. The fire power of the tanks of the 4 Armoured Corp and the continuous artillery support of the 4th Artillery Corp broke the passage for the infantry troops to move vigorously. The support of the Mechanical Infantry regiment, both in fire power and additional speed in moving the troops was a great advantage to the Security Forces especially in the inhospitable terrorism.
Troops of the 4th Gemunu Watch led by Major Upul Senerath of the 552 Brigade advanced towards the enemy’s FDL through landmines and stormed the heavily fortified first earth and Sand bund of Tigers around 6.30 pm. January 31, 2009. The one kilometre long, seven feet high bund linked the sea from the east and the lagoon from the west just a few kilomtres north of the Chalai Sea Tiger base.
The devastating attack was launched after an hour of fierce fighting using Multi Barrel Rocket Launchers, artillery guns and mortars targeting the earth bund, which is the first barrier that the troops had to face after crossing the Chundikulam lagoon some three kilometres away.
The Tigers fought tooth and nail to hold the Sea Tiger Base. The land mass and the bund itself was a mine field. One soldier was instantly killed when one of the mines went off as he stepped on it. However, the troops managed to capture the bund despite heavy resistance from the Tigers, who continuously fired at the security forces using 12.7mm guns, 81 mm mortars and 30 mm canon guns, which normally is fixed to attack boats. The gun had been mounted on a tractor, which was on the move after every attack. Within a span of two hours, the troops were able to take full control of the bund.
The second phase of the operation was entrusted to the 553 Brigade under the command of Lt. Colonel Mahinda Weerasuriya. The 7 Vijayabha Infantry Regiment under the command of Lt. Colonel Deepal Pussellage, and 6 Sri Lanka Light Infantry battalion under the command of Major Manada Yahampath commenced the second phase of the battle on February 2. The 1 Commando Regiment also gave close support for the 553 Brigade.
After holding the bund during the night, the 1st Commando Regiment led by Major K. Gnaratne moved beyond the bund with the break of dawn and was able to clear an area facilitating the 7 Vijayaba and 6 Light Infantry to move further.
The second sand bund was located some 400 metres from the first bund. It was not built as strongly as the first one, but the Tigers attacked the advancing forces using heavy weapons. However, by noon the troops were able to gain full control of the second bund after fierce fighting.
LTTE had mounted heavy guns and continued to attack the military. On the same day troops moved to the third bund that was located one kilomtere away from the second bund and took control of it as the Tigers fled the bund due to the barrage of artillery shells launched by the 4th Artillery regiment.
The third bunker line was captured by two companies from the 7 Vijayaba Infantry Regiment who had infiltrated the area while the 6 Ceylon Light Infantry gave maximum fire support from the beach flank.
By Tuesday, troops detected the LTTE’s fourth bund some four kilometres away from the first bund. A heavy battle occurred in this area for several hours. Unable to withstand the assault from the military the LTTE who had suffered a large number of casualties moved further back towards the Chalai base.
It was confirmed that 24 terrorists were killed and 35 others injured during the operation in Paperapetti area, to break through the LTTE’s third defence line. During this confrontation, intelligence was received that the LTTE had sent reinforcements, but 30 of them disappeared, unable to face the intense fire from the forces. Military Intelligence confirmed that 23 terrorists were killed during the confrontations to overrun the fourth defence line. Three bodies of terrorists and several weapons were recovered by the SF.
By Wednesday, the troops were at a crucial point in the battle as the LTTE entered their last defence line to protect the Chalai base. The advancing forces observed the area through an unmanned aircraft (UAV) and confirmed that the defence line was manned by about 60 terrorists. Alfa Company of the 7th VR, under Captain Arangallage and the Charlie Company of Captain Prasanna using changed tactics and broke into the LTTE defence line.
The 7th VR and the 6th IR and the small groups of the 1st Commando Regiment that advanced from the fourth defence line of the Tigers, on Independence Day, fought the enemy from 12.30 pm to 2.00 pm. The third in command of the Sea Tiger Force and four LTTE leaders were among those killed on that day. The SF that gunned down LTTE Lt. Col Sinnkannan (Organisation No. 0205) and seven LTTE cadres, recovered one RPG, two machine guns, and two T.56 rifles.
The 7th Infantry Regiment provided support fire from the direction of the sea. The LTTE used four Sea Tiger craft during the confrontation. However, the artillery and multi-barrel fire of the SFs neutraliszed the terrorists.
During a confrontation at about 2pm on February 4, the third in Command of the Sea Tiger Force Vinayagam (Organisation No.0205) was killed. Vinayagam who had been the personal bodyguard of former LTTE deputy leader Mahatthaya lost one eye in a confrontation in Jaffna in 1995. He visited Norway, under the pretext of peace talks in 2004, to raise funds for the organisation. He was also, at one time, Sea Tiger intelligence leader and the coordinator for the LTTE arms deals. Identified by the code name ‘Mike Four, Vinayagam functioned as the third in command of the LTTE Sea Tiger Force since 2007. Born at Maradankarni, in Vadamarachchi, Jaffna, he had been in the LTTE organisation for 25 years.
Another Sea Tiger leader called Pahalavan (0053) was also killed during the confrontation. He had been rewarded by Prabhakaran for being a Sea Tiger leader who led most of the attacks during his 15-year service. In this clash, Cader alias ‘Kilo Romeo’ (0856) who had been in charge of operations up to Chalai, was also killed.
LTTE Sea Tiger Leader Soosai launched another attack under Ramesh, one of the LTTE military wing leaders in Batticaloa on February 4. The attack that started at 4pm was beaten back by the Infantry Regiments.
As the 55 Division commenced the final phase of their operation to capture Chalai around mid noon on Wednesday a young girl aged 13 to 14 suddenly appeared in front of the Tiger defences and started to reach the Security Forces as if she was going to surrender to the Security Forces. A soldier in the front line after observing her suspicious move and challenged her to stop. Once she was stopped the girl had exploded her suicide kit causing minor injuries to the soldier.
With troops closing in on the Chalai base, the LTTE used at least eight separate teams and launched several waves of attacks on the military. But these attacks were repulsed by the troops causing heavy damages to the Tigers. The Sea Tigers made desperate attempts to stop the advancing troops after reaching the area in five boats and attacking the troops of the 6 Sri Lanka Light Infantry Battalion. Troops foiled all these attempts by the Sea Tigers and reached Chalai destroying LTTE boats.
Meanwhile, the LTTE radio communication had confirmed the deaths of the five top level leaders of the sea Tiger wing during these battles.
Troops of the 55 Division captured the Chalai Sea Tiger base after five days of fighting and killing several Sea Tiger leaders, on Wednesday night. With the fall of Chaial the LTTE’s access to the sea has been virtually cut-off and they were confined mainly to land areas. The strategically important base in Chalai was one of the main locations where the Sea Tigers carried out several devastating attacks on the Sri Lanka Navy, which lost several boats off this coast.
The advancing troops of 55 Division had to go through several LTTE defence lines and sand bunds in an area of five kilometres from January 31st to capture Chalai Tiger base.
The operation to capture Chalai was launched by 55 Brigade under Brig. Prassana Silva, Deputy Brigade Commander Brig. Nissanka Ranawana and Col Mahinda Weerasuriya. Delta and Echo Companies of the 1st Commando Regiment, under Maj. Krishantha Gunaratne, assisted the infantry regiments.
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