Despite mounting military pressure on Vanni fronts and growing shortage of men and material, the LTTE continues to maintain its best equipped fighting cadres on the Jaffna front to face a possible ground assault across the frontline.
The military said the LTTE had strengthened the frontline anticipating a major assault spearheaded by the recently created Mechanised Infantry Brigade. The heavy air strike on LTTE fortifications at Muhamalai on June 10 had fuelled speculation of an imminent offensive, the military said.
Despite three previous attempts to breach the Muhamalai line beginning with an ill-fated operation spearheaded by the Air Mobile Brigade in the second week of October 2006, the LTTE appeared to be convinced that a fourth attempt would be made, the sources said.
The northern frontline which extends from Kilali to Nagarkovil on the Vadamaratchchy East coast is 12 kilometres wide. It cuts across Eluththumaduwal, Kadolana (marshy land) and Muhamalai.
Over 1,000 LTTE combatants and a considerable number of artillery pieces and heavy mortars are used on the northern front anticipating a move by 53 and 55 Divisions headquartered at Mirusuvil and Urani, respectively. The military said though the LTTE continued to strengthen its northern line as if it had crumbled, the remaining parts of the Vanni region currently under LTTE control, would be entirely opened to the army.
The destruction of eight floating arsenals on the high seas by the SLN between September 2006 to October 2007 crippled the LTTE s overseas supply line responsible for bringing in massive quantities of arms, ammunition and equipment over a period of time.
A senior military official said the LTTE s current strategy would be to hold the northern line at any cost. But that would only delay the eventual collapse of their fighting capability, he said, adding ground action on the western part of the Vanni and Welioya had reached a decisive stage.
The newly created 61 Division has launched operations in the general area west of Omanthai. The military said this would increase pressure on the LTTE now struggling to hold its positions targeted by Task Force 1 advancing on the Mannar front and 57 Division operating on a wide front north of Madhu church.
Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara yesterday said the Task Force 1 had advanced almost 11 kms from its original positions on the Medawachchiya-Mannar road. According to him, troops on the Mannar front had secured Adampan, while the 57 Division had advanced also 26 kilometres to take Periyamadhu tank area over the weekend. During the final assault, the LTTE had lost at least eight cadres, he said, troops conducting clearing operations had come across one body and one T-56 assault rifle.
Before Saturday s final assault, the army had secured bunds at the northern and southern ends, he said. Periyamadhu is situated 16 kilometres north of Madhu church.
The Brigadier said the recent launch of operations by the 61 Division would cause rapid disintegration of enemy units deployed in the Vavuniya sector. He said the newly created Task Force 11 was yet to launch operations although the area of action was expected to be Vanni (west).
Meanwhile, the 59 Division operating on a 12-kilometre wide front had been successful in neutralising a range of LTTE targets. On some sections of the front, the army had advanced upto 7 kilometres while at some places five to six kilometres, he said, asserting the overall progress on different fronts had contributed to the slow disintegration of enemy units.
In the Jaffna peninsula, the army had altered the regular curfew hours. The Brigadier said the curfew would now be imposed from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. whereas previously it had been from 9 p.m. to 4.30 a.m.