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 Post subject: Battle for Thoppigala - 2007 - Eelam War IV
 Post Posted: Wed Jun 20, 2007 4:01 pm 
Battle for Thoppigala - 2007

Barans Cap or famously known Thoppigala is a jungle area in Batticaloa close to the Polannaruwa district border, 220km east of Colombo. LTTE's largest camp in the east, which is called the Beirut base is located in this region. This base had been the heart of LTTE operations in Batticaloa sector for a long time.

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@ LL/Agencies/June 2007

The Sri Lanka Security Forces’ capture of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’s (LTTE) stronghold at Vakarai on January 19, 2007 and later the areas around including Verugal, and the subsequent opening of the Trincomalee-Batticaloa road to the government control, marked the end of an important phase in the Eelam War-4. Before that, The Sri Lankan military recaptured the area of Muttur on August 6th, 2006, which had been under LTTE control for years. The battle of Sampoor, close to Muttur, lasted nearly a month. The SLA gained control of the area on September 4th, 2006 after heavy fighting. The Special Task Force also known as the STF was involved in the operation that captured the Kangikadaichi Aru LTTE military complex during the first week of January 2007.

The Vakarai operation was a part of the overall strategy of the Army Commander Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka to “cut down the LTTE to size” in the North and East. Sarath Fonseka has said that the LTTE would be driven out of the Eastern province "so that civilians could pursue their daily lives peacefully." "After eradicating the Tigers from the East, full strength would be used to rescue the North," he added.

For the first time since the ceasefire in 2002, the SLAF was militarily in a dominant position in 2006/2007. The series of its successes against LTTE has boosted the SLAF image and morale. There was a perceptible swing in Sinhala public support for continuing the war against LTTE. The Eelam War-4 in the last three months has exposed LTTE's limitations. It has sacrificed 800-1000 cadres in this spell of war; that is nearly 10 to 12 per cent of its strength.

In April 2007, the Sri lnkan troops captured the strategic A5 highway which was under LTTE control for ther last 15 years. The LTTE's already diminishing prescence in the east was reduced to a mere 140 square kilometres of jungle land in Thoppigala.

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Barans Cap or famously known Thoppigala is a jungle area in Batticaloa close to the Polannaruwa district border, 220km east of Colombo. LTTE's largest camp in the east, which is called the Beirut base is located in this region. This base had been the heart of LTTE operations in Batticaloa sector for a long time.

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The LTTE counted their defeats from Mavil Aru to Thoppigala which flowed through Muttur, Sampur, Eethalampattu, Kathirveli, Vakarai, Kokkadicholai, Vavunathivu, Karadiyanaru to see an end to their say in the Eastern province.

Troops of the 2 and 3 Commando Regiments, 6,7,8 and 9 battalions of the Gemunu Watch, 1 Sinha Regiment, 10 Gajaba Regiment, Engineering Regiment Armoured Corps and Artillery Regiment contributed to the victory in Thoppigala and completed their mission in the East.

The victory marks the liberation of Thoppigala after 14 years of Tiger dominance which fell into the hands of the LTTE in 1995 when troops were withdrawn from the area for the Riviresa operation in Jaffna.

Prior to the breakaway, Karuna dominated the whole Thoppigala area and maintained west and south of Batticaloa as major income generating sources to the Tiger outfit and also as the biggest recruitment base.

The Tiger outfit had taken the vast paddy lands belonging to Tamils and Muslims after chasing them from their villages and cultivated these lands by using forcibly recruited cadres.

Even today the areas adjacent to Thoppigala jungles give a clear idea how the LTTE exploited this fertile land for their needs. The bunkers made out of sacks filled with paddy gives a clear idea of how Tiger cadres misused this fertile land to achieve their goals.

Cannabis cultivations in the Thoppigala jungles also provided the LTTE a major income source. The Tiger outfit had deployed their men for the sole purpose of cultivating cannabis in these jungle patches.

As the Tiger outfit was aware of these facts, they made many attempts to prevent the Security Forces moving into this territory.

They deployed many of their cadres to strengthen the FDLs they were maintaining at Black Bridge and Pillumalai on the Chenkaladi - Maha Oya road and Vavunathivu FDL.

The Security Forces have also been alerted about Tiger plans to blast the Unnichchiya tank bund if they observed troop movement towards the west and south of Batticaloa to create a major flood in Batticaloa town.

Having given serious thought to Tiger plans, Security Forces made a tactical move towards the area by inducting Commando troops from Kohombagasthalawa on the Ampara Maha Oya road on February 25 marking the commencement of the operation in the west and south of Batticaloa.

The first stage of the battle was to create a link from Kohombagastalawa on the Ampara - Maha Oya road to Vaunathivu via Unnichciya tank, Pavakkudichenai. Two Commando troops supported by 7 Sri Lanka Light Infantry and 6,7,8 Gemunu Watch launched this operation in February.

Along with the Commando troops 7 SLII battalion, and 6,7 and 8 Gemunu watch battalions moved to the Tiger territory to hold the areas captured by the commando troops assaulting the Tigers from the rear.

Then they moved towards Unnichchiya tank and captured Southern sluice gates of the tank and later created a line linking to Vavunathivu via Pavakkudichanai.

This tactical move helped the Security Forces to separate the Tiger strength in the west and south of Batticaloa into two and move into clear Tiger stronghold in Kokkadicholai, Vellaveli, Mandur, Kovilporathivu and Thikkodai.

The second stage of the operation began with troops in Vavunathivu moving to Karadiyanaru creating another defence line, further separating the Tiger cadres trapped in the west of Batticaloa while another battalion in Unnichchiya tank moved towards Rugam on the Chenkaladi-Maha Oya road.

With the completion of this stage the troops in the south and west of Batticaloa could take the full control of the Chenkaladi - Maha Oya A-5 road on April 11 at 2.10 pm securing the areas in Poduwakattu, Iluppadichena, Karadiyanaru, Rugam and Pullimalai on the A-5 road.

The troops from 2 Commando Regiment, 7 Sri Lanka Light Infantry and 6,7 and 8 Gemunu Watch participated in the battle to capture the A-5 road.

After the capture of the A-5 road the 7 SLII battalion was replaced by 1 Sinha Regiment.

The Tiger leadership in Wanni was shaken with the troops capturing the A-5 road and nearly 80 cadres under the leadership of Ramesh were sent from Wanni via thick jungle patches in Trincomalee and Batticaloa districts to strengthen their strongholds in Thoppigala.

However, Security forces detected this movement and engaged them when they were crossing Angodawilluwa south west of Trincomalee on April 12. Ramesh had a narrow escape but 'Lt. Colonel' Ashok, Ramesh's buddy and the doctor who accompanied the team were killed in the attack.

However, troops attached to 2 Commando supported by 6, 7 and 8 Gemunu Watch, Armoured Corps and Artillery commenced the final lap of the operations to fully liberate the East from the Tiger grip on April 25.

Their aim was to clear the Tiger camp complexes in Thoppigala jungles bordering to Polonnaruwa Batticaloa A-15 road from the North, Maduru Oya from the West and Maha Oya - Chenkaladi road from the East and South.

The task before them was enormous since the terrain before them was thick jungle with mountains and rocks giving full advantage to the enemy rather than to the advancing troops.

Commando troops gave the lead moving to Tiger territory and identifying and destroying their gun positions. The 6, 7, 8 Gemunu Watch maintained a defence line after the capture of the areas by the Commando troops.

The troops observed that the Tiger outfit had developed a well planned network of supply routes to the Thoppigala jungles as they advanced towards Tiger territory.

After the loss of a number of LTTE localities between Thoppigala and Batticaloa, LTTE cadres at Thoppigala are cut off from outside resources. They were running short of food, medical supplies and probably heavy weapons and ammunition.

By June 2007, The troops had reached the final stage of the Thoppigala battle which has been fought since February 25, in different stages in the West and South of Batticaloa.

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With the capture of these areas in the West of Batticaloa, nearly 125,000 people came under the control of Security Forces and the Government initiated resettlement of the displaced civilian was completed last Wednesday.

The main battle to flush out the Tiger cadres in Thoppigala started only after the troops captured Chenkaladi-Maha Oya road.

The task before the troops engaged in this operation was to clear the jungle patch bordering A-5 road from the East, Polonnaruwa Batticaloa road from the North, Maha Oya from the South and the Aralaganwila and Vadamunai from the South.

The troops engaged in this operation have been able to reduce the number of Tiger cadres in the entire Thoppigala area to 200 to 250.

According to field commanders 1,400 to 1,500 cadres were in the South and West of Batticaloa prior to the commencement of this operation and after the completion of the Vakarai operation in January.

More than 600 cadres, many from Batticaloa region left the organisation since the eruption of battles, and reunited with their families.

With many Tiger cadres leaving the organisation Jeyam, Nagesh and Ramesh leading the Tiger battle in Thoppigala jungles were making desperate attempts to keep these Tiger cadres under their fold.

According to Security Officials the Tiger outfit was making desperate attempts to flee Thoppigala possibly with the support of a sea movement from the Mullaitivu as they were making their retreat towards the lagoon.

Many other cadres were fleeing towards Wanni crossing the Polonnaruwa Batticaloa road from Vakaneri taking cover in the thick jungles in Trikonamadu, Angodavilluwa.

Amidst this desperate attempts by the Tiger cadres to flee the area, troops were moving towards the Narakamulla, Tharavilkulam where the Tiger outfit was having their main military and training bases.

Lt. Col. Jayampathi Thillekeratne, Commanding Officer of the Eight Gemunu Watch was giving instructions to Alpha and Charly Company to link their troops operating in small groups to create a front in Kotiyagala, another rock ahead of the Samanalayanadi Poothaddi.

Maj. Uditha Bandara, Commanding Office of the 2 Commando Regiment was also busy checking with his troops whether the targets has been correctly taken. He checks the result through his communications set from the Commando troops operating ahead of the defence line created by the troops attached to 8 GW, 7 GW and 6 GW.

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The three groups in the elite Commando Regiment - ALPHA (A), BRAVO (B) and DELTA (D) launched the mission to capture Thoppigala under the leadership of Captain Thushara Weththasinghe who led the A group, Captain Ravi Ratnayake the B group and Captain Malinda Aluvihare the D group.

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On 10th of June 2007 SL army troops overran four LTTE camps in Pankudaweli North, and Naarakmulla South, Military sources said. Military Spokesman Brigadier Prasad Smarasinghe said, that four LTTE camps at, Ibbanvila, Akkarathivu, Mawadi-ode, and Veppanveli have been captured by SL Army troops.

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Although the offensive met almost no LTTE resistance in early days, it came under heavy LTTE counterattacks in the later stage. LTTE offered fierce resistance when troops attempted to capture the final LTTE defense line (near Narakamulla east) on the 19th June.

The FDL was fortified with 6 bunkers and 3 minor camps. Even after a heavy barrage of artillery and tank fire at the FDL, LTTE had not vacated their positions.

The LTTE was taken by surprise by army's next move. Nearly 50 soldiers of the Commando regiment stormed into LTTE bunkers and opened fire on defending terrorists. In a few seconds, the entire situation of the battle changed. LTTE cadres who initially had the upper hand of the battle were now trapped inside their own bunker line.

This devastating commando raid left 30 terrorists dead. 03 LTTE cadres had committed suicide during the battle. In contrast to heavy LTTE casualties, only 4 commando personnel received injuries.

"Over 30 LTTE cadres were killed during the battle, and the troops have found eight dead bodies so far", Brigadier Smarasinghe said. Military sources from the east said, three of the LTTE cadres committed suicide when the army charged ahead. Same sources said many more LTTE bodies have been seen lying in the ground but yet to be collected.

One soldier was killed and 17 others sustained injuries during the battle.

The army during the subsequent search found 06 Multi Purpose Machine Guns (MPMG), 21 T-56 assault riffles, 04 Rocket Propeller Grenade (RPG) launchers, and a large quantity of Anti Personnel (AP) mines and Ammunition.

On June 21st, Sri Lanka’s military spokesman Brig Prasad Samarasinghe said the troops have captured over 95 per cent of the LTTE-held areas in the Eastern Batticaloa district and was closing in on the last base of LTTE in the eastern Thoppigala jungles.

He said, ''43 LTTE cadres from the Thoppigala jungles have surrendered since April to the security forces who were in the process of capturing the LTTE Thoppigala base within the next few days.'' Brig Samarasinghe said 188 rebels have been killed during the operation to capture Thoppigala jungles since April adding that only nine soldiers had been killed so far in this operation.

On 22nd of June Sri Lankan soldiers found 15 decomposing bodies of Tamil Tiger fighters in jungles of Thoppigala with six T-56 (assault rifles), 96 anti-personnel land mines and some other weapons.

Advancing troops in Thoppigala area detected the largest ever single fleet of vehicles abandoned by the LTTE. Troops in Narakamulla, Taravikulam and surrounding areas in Thoppigala were able to detect six double cabs, four vans, seven tractors with trailers, fifteen trailers, nine Canter lorries, nineteen motorbikes and two bowsers, a senior military official said.

A camp where LTTE conscripts and abductees have suffered immense torture after confining them to cells, 'torture chambers', was detected by the troops on 28th of June. The Army was advancing further into the centre of Thoppigala jungles across Narakamulla and Taravikulam.

Few metres away from the camp was a brand new luxurious Nissan Sunny car, said to have been used by one of the LTTE top ranks and now left behind before Tigers ran away as the troops marched on.

The car with all new gadgetry and sophisticated equipment was found from Veppavadduan area in the general area of Narakamulla, Thoppigala.

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Thirty-seven- year-old Sergeant M.H. Neelaweera, a father of two was the team leader of the ALPHA team which took the task of capturing the Narakkamulla complex which is Karuna's infamous 'Tora Bora' complex.

He is an 'Angel' to the Commando Brigade. Each and every solider is given a nick name in the Commando regiment and their nick names are printed on their uniform. Until they are promoted to a higher rank they are popularly known by their nick names.

Angel seems to be proud above all. He says that he led his team to the most crucial point of the LTTE and he took the task of capturing Narakkamulla with the strong determination that they could hoist the National Flag on top of the rock.

In the morning of Thursday the 28th of June, Security forces personnel confronted with a group of tigers who were fleeing the fightings in Thoppigala. The confrontation took place at west of Mavil Aru in Trincomalee district and killed 11 LTTE cadres. Defence sources further said, in a subsequent search operation a stock of T-56 weapons, three hand grenades and a radio uncovered from the surrounding where the confrontation took place.

Six Security Forces personnel including two officers attached to the Sri Lanka Armoured Corps were killed on July 6 as they come under LTTE attack from the East of Barons' Cap and West of Tharavi area.

That was the highest number of Security Forces personnel killed during the operation to wrest control of the Thoppigala. During the entire operation only 18 soldiers were killed and 68 soldiers sustained injuries.

On the LTTE side 211 LTTE cadres have been killed during Thoppigala operation and the number exceeds 500 in the operations conducted in the west and south of Batticaloa.

The jubilant troops led by the 2nd Commando Regiment made their way to Baron's Cap on Wednesday, July 11, 2007, morning to reach their final target in the East, ending their month long mission in the Thoppigala jungles.

Troops of the 2 and 3 Commando Regiments, 6,7,8 and 9 battalions of the Gemunu Watch, 1 Sinha Regiment, 10 Gajaba Regiment, Engineering Regiment Armoured Corps and Artillery Regiment contributed to the victory in Thoppigala and completed their mission in the East.

Lance Corporal Pushpa Kumara from Tissamaharamaya was injured due to a mortar attack at Rugam on March 3 and was transferred to the Anuradhapura Hospital for treatment. Due to the severity of the injury he was given seven day medical leave but returned before given rest period as he wanted to be in his group which was fighting with the terrorists. " I wanted to take part in their fight to capture Thoppigala", his voice reflects the dedication that the Commandos have.

Twenty four year old Lance Corporal Sanath Silva serving in the North and east for the last four years was injured twice during the mission to capture Thoppigala but returned to the battlefield without taking the given medical leave full. He got gun shot injuries on his hand and came back to the battlefield again and suffered injuries due to a mortar attack when crossing the Narakkamulla Complex.

"I was asked to rest for 14 -days but when remembering our team who were fighting with the terrorists I could not stay at the hospital. I came back to the battlefield and took part in the mission. I am proud to be a solider attached to the Commando regiment", he says.

The victory marks the liberation of Thoppigala after 14 years of Tiger dominance which fell into the hands of the LTTE in 1995 when troops were withdrawn from the area for the Riviresa operation in Jaffna.


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Related:
:arrow: [url=http://www.lankalibrary.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=3675] Army uncovers huge cache of LTTE Arms, including anti air missiles
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 Post subject: Great Work
 Post Posted: Sat Jul 21, 2007 10:49 pm 
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Joined: Wed May 30, 2007 6:29 am
Posts: 4
Percy,

I am personally thankful to you that you took the pain to document the battles, especially the note about Sgt Ajith Wasantha.
Keep up good work.

Sam P


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