As offensive action on the Vanni front nears a critical stage with the army making significant progress, the need to neutralise the remaining LTTE units operating in the Eastern theatre has increased.
The LTTE struggling to thwart army advance on its Vanni strongholds, now threatenig Vidathalthivu, north of Mannar is incresingly trying to destabilise the East and the adjoining Moneragala district. `It would be part of their strategy to force the government to divert troops now engaged on offensive action on different fronts,` an official said
The recent attacks which claimed the lives of 44 civilians and three policemen in the Moneragala district are believed to have been carried out by a small section of the group tasked for the destabilisation campaign.
A military spokesman said that their response to the LTTE challenge was two-fold. According to him, ongoing operations conducted by the army, the Special Task Force (STF) and the navy were aimed at neutraoising enemy units and track down buried arms, ammunition and equipment.
Contrary to claims, the LTTE group, now active in the Eastern theatre of operations was what remained of the once powerful fighting cadre in the east, the military said. Although several senior cadres had returned to the Vanni through jungle routes before the fall of Narakkamulla-Thoppigala area, the LTTE had left a group which was engaged in hit and run attacks in the region.
But regular operations had caused sizeable losses on the enemy group, an army official said. `Denying them arms and ammunition is equally important as killing personnel,` he said. The LTTE wouldn`t have withdrwan the entire group knowing the difficulty in implementing what he called a re-deployment plan, a navy official said.
The recovery of 12 T-56 assault rifles, 11 T 56 magazines, 2200 rounds of T 56 ammunition, 45 hand grenades, one 12.7 weapon, one 120 mm mortar, one 82 mm mortar, one 60mm mortar, 20 claymore mines, 1505 anti-personnel mines, 500 eletrical detonators and a stock of food and medicine among many other items during joint search operations carried out by the army and the STF in Thoppigala and Padirrippuwa early January shows the presence of the remnant LTTE cadre.
He said that the army and the STF had recovered a sizeable quantity of arms, ammunition and equipment hidden in various parts of the Eastern Province. The army recovered huge quantities of arms, ammunition and equipment shortly after the fall of Vakarai and Thoppigala area last year.
The navy, too, had made significant detections and recoveries both at sea and land since last February. The latest was the detection of an LTTE hide-out six kms west of Nilaweli in the Peraru jungles and the recovery of two T 56 assault rifles, two SMG (sub machine guns) magazines, 63 rocket propelled grenades, and 6000 rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition. The ammunition had been packed in eight boxes with each containing 750 rounds.
The Nilaweli detection followed the killing of three LTTE cadres in the Kuchchaveli jungles on January 7 night. Their bodies which were recovered along four T 56 assault rifles, magazines, ammunitions and a stock of dry rations and medical items were later returned to Vanni through the ICRC.
According to navy headquarters, sea units and its grounds troops inflicted considerable damages on the LTTE during confrontations in last February (three incidents), May (two incidents), June (one incident), July (two incidents), August (one incident), September (one incident) and two incidents so far this month.
The navy said that the confrontation which took place on July 2, 2007 off Kallarawa was significant. The LTTE lost a person holding the rank of `Lieutenant Colonel`, eight cadres holding the rank of `Captain` and three `Lieutenants`.
The navy expressed confidence that the LTTE wouldn`t attempt to evacuate cadres holed up in the east. They wouldn`t have the strength to carry out what the navy called a forced evacuation.