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 Post subject: Battle of Vakarai -- 2006/2007
 Post Posted: Sun May 27, 2007 4:55 am 
Battle of Vakarai - 2007

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The Battle of Vakarai and the Operation "Definite Victory - (Niyathai Jaya)" in Ampara could liberate 95% of the Eastern Province from the LTTE clutches. According to the intelligence sources over 500 LTTE cadres were killed and at least another 200 suffered injuries during the Battle of Vakarai itself. Forty Five army soldiers made their supreme sacrifice for the country while another 230 sustained injuries.

Vakarai is a large backwater on Sri Lanka’s east coast. The Vakarai region encompasses the land north of Navalady Junction extending 50km to the Verugal River. The region’s eastern boundary extends to the shores overlooking the Bay of Bengal and the West, lined by agricultural land and forests. The Batticaloa-Trincomalee highway (A-15) passes through Vakarai.

The villages of Kayankerni, Mankerni, Pannichchankerni, Vakarai, Kandalady, Paalchenai and Kathiravelly lie along A-15 (from south to north). The Uppaar Lagoon separates the coast and the hinterland. Vakarai village proper lies east of the lagoon by the coast.

It was an area with large fertile fields, lagoons and virgin forests in the northern part of the Batticaloa district. The 2004 Tsunami devastated Vakarai’s once rich inland and coastal fisheries industry and destroyed the already poor infrastructure in this area. There has been no electricity in this area for several years. The majority of its population was already impoverished by the two decade old civil war that had ravaged this region.

In June 2006, the LTTE closed down Mavil-Aru sluice gates denying water supply to 15,000 civilians and disrupt their livelihood by destroying over 30,000 acres of agricultural land. Then again in July in the same year the LTTE made an attempt to capture South of Trincomalee by attacking Muttur, Mahindapura and Thoppur areas. Hundreds of civilians perished and over 20,000 were displaced during these battles. From August to September in 2006, the LTTE undertook a major military offensive to capture the Jaffna peninsula. These battles led to close down of the A-9 road by making it unsafe and thereby created a serious humanitarian crisis in the peninsula.

Meanwhile, in the East The LTTE continued to attack Karuna group and the security forces. The LTTE sealed off the areas under its domination in Vakarai and started attacking security forces in government controlled areas with heavy artillery weapons taking the cover of the civilians living in Vakarai. Over 40,000 Tamil civilians in Vakarai, Panichchankerni, Verugal, Kathiraveli and Echchanpaththu were used as a human shield while the civilians in Somapura, Mahindapura, Kallar, Sirimangalapura , Kadjuwatta and Mankerni were being continuously pounded with heavy artillery. Further, assassinations of political opponents and abductions of civilians including the school children increased to an alarming rate in both Ampara and Batticaloa districts.

The Commander in Chief devised a new mission to eradicate the LTTE from the Eastern Province. The battle of Vakarai was set about as a result.

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Battle of Vakarai, one of the greatest battle ever fought by the SL armed forces has certainly had the right Generals to lead the battle.

In the new strategy the difference between the conventional warfare and the counter terror operations were given the topmost importance and the tactical level operations were designed to cater the specific requirements arising from such differences. In conventional warfare, artillery and aerial bombardments are extensively used for area neutralization, followed by armour and infantry advance to gain control over the hostile territory. However, the conventional military strategies could not be applied to the local scenario mainly due to the presence of large number of civilians in the un-liberated areas.

Thus, unlike in the past offensives conducted by the SL military, purging the enemy strongholds were given priority over the gaining of ground. Elite forces were deployed deep behind the enemy lines in small groups to attack enemy strongholds and property in lieu of artillery and aerial attacks. This in turn helped to gain intelligence on the large enemy bases and gun positions where subsequent artillery and air assaults could be carried out with precision. The new strategy required the infantry to consolidate the achievements of the elite forces which was an entirely new concept for the SL forces. Earlier, the elite troops were more engaged in isolated missions or even for the conventional warfare itself. Therefore, the military could develop an invincible competitive advantage over the enemy through the new strategy.

The military operation in Vakarai was conducted in two main phases, within a time span of barely three months. The main objective of the first phase was to facilitate safe evacuation of the civilians in Vakarai to the government controlled areas. It was known from the civilians who had managed to escape the terror clutches that the LTTE had vowed to kill anyone who attempts to leave its human shield. Therefore, the elite Long Range Recee Patrol (LRRP) teams, were brought into action to keep the LTTE busy with a series of surprise attacks . The attacks that took place at scattered location made the LTTE to disperse its cadre and therefore , it could not prevent the fleeing civilians effectively.

After the security forces liberated Sampur, the LTTE withdrew further southward and concentrated their power in the southern bank of Mavil Aru . There were around 26 identified LTTE camps located between Kadjuwatta to Upparu. This included two camps in Echchalanpaththuwa, four camps including a training base in Kathiraveli, two camps including a sea tiger base at Palchenai, three camps including a gun position at Kandaladi, seven concentrated camps in the Vakarai town, three camps at Karuvappanchenai, one camp at Panichchankerni , three camps at Kaddamuravikulam and one at Thonithandamadu. Further, the LTTE had three strong defence lines up to Panichchankerni Bridge each stretching about 3-6 Km from the eastern coast.

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The first stage of the offensive - 30th October 2006 to 15th January 2007

During the first phase of attack that was conducted from 30th October to 15th January, SL Army troops made four successive approaches in to the un-liberated areas.

On 4th of December 2006 the troops advanced in three fronts from Trikonamadu , Kirimichchiya and Kadjuwatta and cleared off 15km into the Trikonamadu jungle. During this approach the LTTE targets at Kaddamuravikulam, Karuvappanchenai and Madurankernikulam were destroyed.

The second approach was made on 9th December from Mahindapura Southwards and engaged with the LTTE targets in Echchalanpaththuwa area.

The third and the fourth approaches were made on the 10th of December, one from Trikonamadu and the other from Kadjuwatta. The troops infiltrated from Trikonamadu advanced 12km into the LTTE dominated areas and crushed the LTTE camps in Thonithandamadu. The elite troops advanced form Kadjuwatta onwards , carried out four assaults at Panichchankerni and captured up to the second bunker line of the LTTE.

By the end of Phase I the SL Army could cleared off 8-10Km in to the Trikonamadu jungle encompassing the Kaddamuravikulam , Karuvappanchenai , and Madurankerni Kulam areas.

Following the completion of the Stage I, the infantry troops in small groups marched into the newly captured territories and consolidated the achievement of their elite counterparts. By doing so, the life line for the next stage of operations was established. The soldiers of 7th Gamunu Watch (GW) marched 7km to the west of Kadjuwatta and linked up with the 6th Vijayabahu Infantry Regiment (VIR) who were marching from Nagasthanna. Both group further marched further 12km up to Kaddamuravikulam where they again linked up with 10th Gajaba Regiment (GR) soldiers who had marched 15Km from Sinhapura via Trikonamadu.

As the phase I of the operation was completed, a total number of 21504 civilians including 9838 children arrived safely to the government controlled areas.

Artillery and air assaults resulted in number of civilian deaths and casualties. Tiger artillery on 09th of December 2006 struck the Somadevi school at Somapura, Kallar injuring nine children and two teachers. Another shell fell on a house killing all three members of the family including an army soldier. The funeral of the deceased took place at a nearby temple as the house was completely destroyed. All hell broke lose on the eastern coastal belt, with both Sinhala and Tamil civilians moving out of their villages as the LTTE started firing indiscriminately in the direction of Kallar, home to a major army detachment.

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Prior to infantry movements, army’s Special Forces penetrated Tiger held areas. The method employed by the elite forces was to “seek and target Tiger cadres.” Unofficial claims put the number of Tiger deaths at a staggering 300, including three to four senior cadres. The LTTE too admitted the killing of one of their regional leaders. According to the Tamilnet website, Lt Col Viduthalai, military coordinator of Vakarai, was killed as a result of a confrontation with the army.

Special Forces infiltrating this region was a crucial operation undertaken by all three regiments of the Special Forces- 1, 2 and 3, commanded by Majors Ihalagama, Peiris and Major Senerath Yapa. Accompanying these elite forces were infantry formations from the 6 Viajayabahu Infantry Regiment (VIR) and the 6/8 Gemunu Watch (GW). The battle plan was such that the Special Forces were to capture areas and hand over same for the accompanying infantry troops to hold on to.

Special Forces accompanied by infantry troops from the 6th Gemunu Watch advanced into the Panichankerni area amid intense fire and captured an area of about four and half square kilometres. After initially offering resistance, the Tigers deserted their bunkers and fled along with their wounded cadres. Several Tiger cadres died and three Special Forces and 8 soldiers of the 6 Gemunu Watch Regiment were killed in the confrontation.

Backed by 1 SF Delta Squadron, the infantry troops moved into Kaddamurikulam and killed 19 Tiger cadres. The security forces captured a row of bunkers at Tranctor Junction on Sunday itself.

Meanwhile, the Charlie Squadron of the Special Forces along with infantry troops advanced about 6 kilometeres from Kaddakuruvikulam and was poised to attack LTTE bunkers in an area north of Thirikonamadu.
Another immediate task of the security forces was to sever the link between Mavil Aru and the Triconamadu axis. Captain Manju Serasinghe and his battalion which successfully led the Mavil Aru and Sampur operations and Lieutenant Pushpakumara were commanding this part of the operation. They occupied an LTTE camp amid RPG fire by the fleeing LTTE cadres.

A group from the 6 Vijayabahu Regiment also arrived to assist them in this operation. Lieutenant Pushpakumara, who was tasked with the job said, it was not possible as his flank was open and Captain Manju Serasinghe agreed to undertake the assault as his group was positioned lower down. The operation was successfully carried out and the security forces achieved their goal. The two SF teams moved a further six kilometres from Triconamadu and captured several bunkers.

After the operation, the victors assembled around the camp and both Capt. Serasinghe and Lt. Pushpakumara, along with soldiers of the 6 Vijayabahu Infantry Regiment (VIR), were around. Placed there was a bomb that apparently could blast in all directions (360 degrees).

Ironically, Captain Serasinghe and four Special Forces were killed in a bomb blast while inspecting one of the deserted LTTE camps. Capt. Serasinghe was killed and along with him three other SF personnel died and two more were injured. In Lt. Pushpakumara’s group one SF personnel died and there were six casualties, while from the 6 Vijayabahu Infantry Regiment five died and there were 15 casualties.

Special Forces backed by infantry troops from the 8 Gemunu Watch set out from Mahindapura. They came under artillery fire that killed three of the Special Forces and eight of the infantry soldiers of the 8 Gemunu Watch.

The Tigers were pounding 122mm and 152mm heavy artillery on the military establishments and nearby civilian settlements from the Vakarai area. The LTTE has moved its heavy artillery close to the General Hospital, Vakarai and to the Tamil Central College, Vakarai.

According to intelligence reports, the security forces placed the strength of the LTTE in Vakarai at 700 Tiger cadres, scattered all over a vast area. The security forces were planning to consolidate their power in Vakarai by January 2007.

Tiger cadres fleeing from Vakarai came under attack by members of the Karuna faction in Meeyankulama area. About 25 Tiger cadres were killed and another 20 injured in the confrontation.

The second stage of the offensive

The second stage of the offensive commenced on 16th January, and lasted for four days of intense battle. During this stage the infantry keeping the Special Forces in the forefront spearheaded from two frontiers one from Kadjuwatta, and the other from Mahindapura developing two fold pressures from the North and the South.

In the meantime, LRRP teams backed by small groups of infantrymen, marched into the Trikonamadu jungle from the Mavil Aru and Madurankerni Kulam areas in order to ambush possible enemy reinforcement as well as any fleeing LTTE cadres. However, this approach was kept undercover as to lure the terrorists on the possible withdrawal route to the Thoppigala jungle. It is a basic tactic of military offensive to keep one escape route open for the enemy when conducting an all around assault. Thereby the enemy would be compelled to choose the option disadvantageous for them.

The order of the battle during its second stage is given below:

D-Day - 16th January 2007
Early in the morning of 18th January 2007, Army Special Forces commenced their march from the earlier captured 2nd LTTE bunker line, south of Panichchankerni and capture the 3rd LTTE bunker line on the same day evening. At the end of the D day troops established a 3km defence line across Kovilkuduirippu, south of Panichchankerni.

On the northern front Army Commandos marched in to Echchalanpaththuwa area clearing dense mine fields and booby traps. Commandos established their D-day catch over 8km stretch south of Echchalanpaththuwa.

D+1 Day- 17th January 2007
Southern thrust advanced further 2-3 Km towards Panichchankerini and consolidated a defence line across 4km stretch between Veranthivu and Challitivumuani at the end of the D+2 day.

The Commandos at the Northern front could shift their defence line another 2-3km southward and established their defences between Valalthottam and Sankankuli at the end of D+1

D+2 Day- 18th January 2007
Southern advance continued further northward up to the southern bank of Panichchankerni lagoon. The terrorists exploded the Panichchankerni Bridge with the intention of slowing down the SL Army's advance. However, the troops continued to push forward along the narrow stretch of beachhead up to Challitivu , east of the Vakarai town.

Meanwhile, the northern thrust shifted its defence line further 2km southward by clearing up to Mavadichchenal area.

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D+3 Day -19th January 2007
The major success for the advancing troops from the South came as the Special Forces troops captured the Vakari town on D+4. The troops who moved further Northward on the narrow beachhead since the previous day night , crossed the shallow lagoon on foot in the middle of the night and entered into Vakarai town. Meanwhile, another approach was made to the Vakarai town from Panichchankerin over the destroyed bridge and the two groups linked up at Vakarai town on the morning of D+3. After linking up, the troops continued their assault towards further northwards, clearing off an area of 8km, up to Komattalamadu.

The commandos advancing from North shifted their defence line further 2km to the south up to Verukal.

D+4 Day - 20th of January
The two advancing troops from North and South linked up at the 46th km post on the A-15 road. Immediately after the linking up, the infantry troops were directed to secure the beachheads in the east and the Special Forces and Commandos were spearheaded to the west looking for the fleeing terrorists.

Meanwhile, the troops that were in the Trikonamadu jungle started a swift march towards the Mavil Aru in order to meet with the fleeing terrorists.

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As previously expected the troops could successfully ambush fleeing LTTE cadres at several locations inside the jungle extending from Mavil-Aru to Trikonamadu. On the early morning on the 21st of January, SL troops could kill 20 odd LTTE cadres and seized large number of weapons at Meeyankulam in Batticaloa.

However, it was virtually impossible as well as ineffective to cover the huge jungle stretch completely so that the some of the LTTE cadres including their two leaders, Nagesh and Swarnam were believed to have escaped to the Thoppigala area.

While the Army was swiftly laying its web around the tigers, the navy kept its vigilant eye on eastern coast and completely cut off the possible replenishment for the enemy from sea and allowed no LTTE cadre to escape via sea. Naval Fast Attack Craft and Gunboats were deployed along eastern coast for 24 hours a day during the whole span of the military operation.

The air force in the meantime established an excellent coordination with Army intelligence sources and carried out 11 air attacks at the LTTE bases, gun positions and enemy rendezvous points with precision strikes during the operation. The speculations made by the LTTE propaganda elements that the air force and army artillery attacking hospitals and other civilian targets were proven false as the ground troops found the Vakarai hospital unharmed even by a single pellet. Furthermore, many LTTE bases including the Swarnam base were found completely destroyed by the air attacks indicating that the attacks had met their right targets.

Meanwhile, the Army artillery regiment also provided valuable support to the ground troops even under the severe constraints. It was well understood that the LTTE was moving its artillery frequently to the civilian settlements and attacking the security forces using the civilians as a shield. However, the series of scattered attacks conducted by the elite forces compelled the LTTE to move their heavy weaponry aimlessly and therefore; many of the enemy guns were destroyed outside the civilian settlements by the artillery and air force fighter jets.

The Battle of Vakarai and the Operation "Definite Victory - (Niyathai Jaya)" in Ampara could liberate 95% of the Eastern Province from the LTTE clutches. According to the intelligence sources over 500 LTTE cadres were killed and at least another 200 suffered injuries during the Battle of Vakarai itself. Forty Five army soldiers made their supreme sacrifice for the country while another 230 sustained injuries.

Further, the security forces could capture the largest ever stock of weapons including four heavy artillery guns from the LTTE terrorists. Although the LTTE claimed that they had tactically withdrawn form the area, what was found on their escape route told a different story. The way the fleeing terrorists had left their weapons indicated the extent of fear and the shame of defeat encountered by them.


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