After months of fighting off the terrorists, the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) today (19th January, 2007) cleared the Vakarai town from the LTTE terrorists. The civilians, who were so far trapped in the town, are currently been helped out of their hiding places and taken to IDP camps until the town is restored back to resume normal civil life. Since the 1st lead of this news item SLA is consolidating in the town.
The terrorists have fled the town with a large number of casualties. They have also left behind much of their logistics. The terrorists are currently firing mortar shells from north of Vakarai - KOMATHALAMADU and KADIRAWELI - 5 km and 10 km respectively from Vakarai town. SLA is currently repelling these attacks and has proceeded 1 km from the town in the process.
Vakarai is a significantly strategic coastal strip for the sea-tiger bases. By strengthening in this area, the terrorists would be free to run their smuggling of arms and narcotics into the country as well as into the neighboring East Asian countries. With Vakarai as their base, they would also rule the Eastern coast through terror such as sea-piracies as amply demonstrated by the piracy of FARA III ? the Jordanian merchant ship.
The town has been experiencing various problems from the terrorists since 1996. However, it is from early October, 2006 Vakarai life was disturbed with a visible terrorist movement. Totally disrupting the civilian life, the terrorists began to convert the civilian populated areas into a battle compound. The terrorists forcibly occupied civilian homes and converted these into bunkers.
The civilians were forced to dig up trenches (please see image below where civilians including the heavily pregnant woman is forced to dig up trenches) with ''tools'' such as their dinner plates and then forced into these trenches (please see the situation report 1st November, 2006).
All civilians, irrespective of age or physical ability, were forced into labor and combat training. Among the many atrocities, the most common complaints the escaping civilians made against the terrorists were:
.:. Disruption on education and livelihoods
.:. Extortions and looting of all valuables
.:. Intimidations, harassments and humiliations
.:. Unequal distribution on food, medicine and other essential items
.:. Reprisals and vengeful acts
The SLA immediately launched a humanitarian mission to restore civilian life. By 1st November, 2006 SLA had managed to close the gap. With the presence of the military, more civilians managed to escape into secure areas. Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) and the troops quickly set up special operations to receive and look after these escaping civilians. As time progressed, the civilians received by the troops were increasingly malnourished, physically exhausted, mentally drained and often arrived with nothing more than the cloths on their back.
As time and military progressed, the civilian complaints against the terrorists increased to include:
.:. Forcing people into SLA target range
.:. Forcing into the front-lines of the battle
.:. Forcibly extracting blood from people
As the Tamil people began to vote with their feet by leaving the so-called ?liberator? and into the protection from the so-called ?oppressor?, the terrorists in a desperate bid to prevent more ?votes? for the ?oppressor?, closed the A-15 highway ? which connects the boundaries of the terrorist-active areas and the secure areas and opened fire at any civilian found on the highway. However, the tiger leaders in Vakarai ensured that the A-15 was closed after their own families have left the troubled areas.
The situation worsened with the closure of the A-15 highway. The humanitarian crisis imagined to exist in Jaffna by the terrorists and moved the Bishop Thomas Soundaranayagam of Jaffna to tears when A-9 highway at Muhamalai entry-exit point was closed, became a reality in Vakarai. As a severe shortage in food and other essential items was intentionally created in Vakarai by the terrorists, the people actually began to starve and suffer from lack or no medication.
GoSL with the support of the international community tried in vain to arrange food convoys to the troubled areas. Despite the international pressures and appeals from the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), the terrorists obstinately refused the convoys to pass through. Food convoys were sent on the 18th and then again on the 28th of November, 2006. Both times the convoys were turned back by the terrorists. On the 29th November, 2006 a food convoy consisting of 84 Lorries managed to pass through, but the terrorists tried to infiltrate the secure areas via the returning Lorries. The civilians who escaped after this incident have revealed that this food was not distributed among the civilians.
Further to closing the A-15 highway, the terrorists also mined the road and surrounding jungles and physically assaulted anyone caught escaping. Yet, the civilians, including women in advance pregnancy, braved through the mined jungles and trekked for days to reach the secure areas. By end December, out of a population of over 35,000 only less that 8,000 civilians remained caught up with the terrorists. These were the desperately sick and the old who were unable to make the arduous journey.
On the 17th January, 2007 the terrorists forcibly captured the Vakarai hospital to treat their cadres wounded in the SLA confrontations in PANICHCHANKERNI and KADJUWATTA. Since the siege the hospital officials were not allowed to treat any civilians. This too has been released from the terrorist grip.
Since the start of this operation, 45 of SLA was killed in action and 180 wounded. According the technical sources, at least 331 LTTE cadres were killed and a large number of casualties.
Edited By - Achilles - 19 Jan 2007 12:52:07 GMT