Muhamalai debacle PART I - October 2006 : The shocking story
But soon troops began to realize they had unwittingly walked into a trap and began a tactical withdrawal. Communications were cut off. There was a paucity of information and confusion reigned. Later that evening troops had all reached their original positions, giving up the areas they captured, some of the mechanized vehicles and other military hardware. The battle had just ended in a little over two hours. Yet, field commanders found it difficult to discern a fuller picture of what had happened and what went wrong. They had a bigger priority on hand - rush the large number of injured for treatment. Several private buses were requisitioned and the casualty evacuation exercise began.
A hangar like building, located adjoining the Control Tower of the Air Force base in Palaly, was immediately converted into a temporary hospital due to pressure on the Army Hospital in Palaly. This building was once used as a reception hall for passengers taking flights. A serious lapse, in planning the military attack seems the failure to give consideration to casualties if a serious eventuality occurred. Was it over confidence and an under estimation of the enemy capability? Even ambulances were in short supply and there were no arrangements in Colombo to receive a large number of casualties. From the two hospitals, cases that needed greater medical attention were flown in Air Force flights to Anuradhapura and Colombo.
With the task of dealing with casualties over, it was only on Thursday that battalion commanders got down to the job of taking a count of their men. The purpose was three fold - who were missing, who were known to be killed and how many were exactly injured. Even yesterday, a full and clear picture has not emerged in terms of statistics. Figures available on Thursday night showed that 8 officers and 47 soldiers were killed. A further 78 including four officers were declared missing in action. But the same night the LTTE handed over to delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) the bodies of 74 troops. They were in turn handed over to the Army at Omanthai (Vavuniya) in the presence of members of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission. This LTTE handover of bodies proved wrong the MCNS claim that there were no Security Forces attacks in the North and East.
The figures available show 129 soldiers were killed. Three more wounded soldiers died on Friday. The LTTE said the body of another soldier had been recovered on Thursday evening. It is not clear whether it has been handed over. That would bring the total to 133 dead. Whilst one soldier is in LTTE custody, in terms of these figures, two are not accounted for. Senior Army officials say the figures could become higher when a final count is made. But this cannot be verified. Even in official accounts, the figures are not fully reflected. A situation report circulated to senior political and military leaders on Thursday declared two officers and 35 soldiers missing - just half the number of 72 bodies returned by the LTTE on Thursday night. The Army strongly denied LTTE claims that more bodies of dead soldiers lay in the 'no man's' land that divided their defence lines from the rebels.
Soldiers injured, according to figures available, have been placed at 483. Of this number, 283 are described in military parlance as P 1 and P 2. They are considered serious cases. The three deaths reported on Friday would bring this number down to 280. The rest are P 3 or those who received minor injuries. Here again some officers argue the figures are higher but this cannot be verified.
Fonseka has given accurate numbers to US officials but not for Srilankans .
Army Commander Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka has admitted in the United States last week that the military had had to sacrifice about 300 soldiers within a week-and-a-half of battle in Muhamalai.
It was a larger figure than had ever been cited by the military in Sri Lanka following the Muhamalai battles.
lets wait for the final coundown come out FROM MUHAMALAI DEBACLE PART II.