A low-deep sound, as of cannon fire, shakes the ground.
It can be from a trap we ve set up right on the edge of the current LTTE defense line, a camouflaged officer speculates. A trap, is a concoction of antipersonnel mines and other explosives, strung together to form a high-impact cluster bomb.
A few minutes after we bade farewell to the spirited men at the Muhamalai Forward Defense Line (FDL), another blast is heard.
It was later that we came to know that one of the soldiers had lost a leg in a landmine explosion.
A spate of gunfire ensues, supposedly from the enemy front lines. Yet, after a few minutes, an eerie calm descends on the 400-meter marshy bog-pit which marked the no-man s land between the current army FDL and the LTTE front line.
The stretch between the current Forward Defense Line of the armed forces in Muhamalai and that of the LTTE, designated as the no-man s land has been successfully infiltrated by the military. Our special units have reached the edge of the perimeter beyond which the LTTE stronghold lies, Division-55 Commander, Brigadier Kamal Guneratne said.
The troops are inching forward with stealth and resolve despite the antipersonnel mines and booby-traps that were laid by the LTTE and the security forces at various times the FDL was manned by either party.
If we deploy a large battalion in this area the casualties are bound to be higher, because we are hemmed in a narrow area with only 8km across at the neck of the Jaffna Peninsula. Sending specialized teams have proven to be a better strategy, inflicting maximum damage on the enemy, Brigadier Guneratne said explaining the effectiveness of the current military strategy.
Our primary aim is not to capture more land but to bleed the enemy s strength by reducing its cadre strength and weapons stocks. We estimate the LTTE to be having 1,500 fighters in the area including the reserves. However, the enemy is able to move cardres from one fighting theater to the other, he added.
A group of seven special officers returning from no-man s land , who claimed to have killed some 200 LTTE cadres between them, confirmed this view.
Yet, life beyond the forward defense line -- for the men of the Special Forces weighed down by RPGs and other heavy weaponry is not without difficulties.
We are always on alert, even while resting we are not allowed to make any noise. If they register the slightest movement the Tigers fire artilleries, Recruit Siriwardena, who had been involved in the offensive operation to infiltrate no-man s land since August 2006 said. His unit was transferred to Muhamalai on August 11, 2006.
Siriwardena who hails from Polonnaruwa has served in operational areas throughout his entire military career.
Captain Fernando just returned after seeing his 6-year-old son. Most of these men would spend their April New Year in the harsh marshy terrain.
It is a special challenge to maintain the high-moral of the troops who serve under these special circumstances, especially because they feel isolated and land-locked. There are also transport difficulties at times when they are due to go back home after serving for about three months. But we try our best to boost their spirits in many ways, Commanding Officer Colonel Wasantha Arbrew said.
Even Division 55, second-in-command Colonel Nissanka Ranawake -- a father of two agreed that while they are privileged to man the most crucial point guarding the forward defense line it is often difficult to explain the absence of a father to tiny tots constantly seeking the protection and affection of a father.