A spate of attacks on soft targets in the South has forced the government to step up the ongoing combined security forces campaign to bring the entire Vanni region under its control.
Although the government has repeatedly assured that the military wouldn t be set a deadline, the recent wave of violence directed at civilians and economic targets, mainly in the Moneragala district and the capital, has necessitated reappraisal of the strategy, authoritative sources said.
A combination of air strikes and ground operations would be directed against the remaining LTTE strongholds in the Vanni, the sources said shortly after SLAF jets carried out a bombing raid at 8.30 am, their third sortie in 36 hours. Wing Commander Andy Wijesuriya said that jets successfully hit a hideout at Thiruwei-aru, about a km northwest of Iranamadu.
Intensified action on the Jaffna front aimed at weakening the LTTE fortifications and strong points are of critical importance, the sources asserted. Troops led by Czechoslovakian built T-55 main battle tanks in the early hours of yesterday (6) destroyed 30 bunkers, four of them at Nagarkovil, ten to the north of Kandy-Jaffna A9 road and the rest at Kilaly. The army estimated the number of LTTE killed at 12.
The army recovered one multi purpose machine gun, one T-56 weapon, five magazines, two pouches and a large number of other LTTE items. Five soldiers were wounded in action.
Yesterday s assault followed two operations last Wednesday (January 30) and Friday (February 1) also in the same theatre.
Last Wednesday s operation on the Jaffna frontline highlighted the level of preparedness of the army. The 55 and 53 Divisions launched a simultaneous strike across the LTTE s first line of defences at Muhamalai and Nagarkovil in the early hours which quickly overwhelmed the defenders.
The pre-dawn attack got underway at 12.45 am after weeks of small group operations to test enemy positions. The effective deployment of the infantry alongside the T-55 main battle tanks facilitated the destruction of altogether about 35 bunkers. The army mounted a second assault two days later on about ten bunkers which had been damaged in Wednesday s action.
Meanwhile the army pressed on, on the Vanni and Weli Oya fronts, with troops engaging enemy units at Parappakandal, Kokkuthuduwai and Janakapura on Tuesday. During the engagement at Kokkuthuduwai, the army lost three soldiers while 14 received injuries. The army placed the number of LTTE killed at four.
At Janakapura, Weli Oya, the Army killed at least 15 LTTE cadres in two separate confrontations.