Sri Lanka war reaches crucial
phase; troops zero in on Kilinochchi
Nov 23 (IANS) The long drawn out civil war in Sri Lanka has
reached a crucial phase with reports of the fighting spirit
of the Tamil Tigers said to be at an "all time low"
after the fall of two of their strongholds even as government
troops march in on the rebels' political capital Kilinochchi.
troops last week captured the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
(LTTE) bastions of Pooneryn and Mankulam which they had held
for a decade.
navy commander and chief of defence staff (CDS) Admiral Daya
Sandagiri said the capture of Pooneryn "has virtually
neutralized the LTTE threat to the troops stationed in the
Jaffna peninsula while the capture of Mankulam has mounted
pressure on the LTTE.
capture of Pooneryn has now given the military the necessary
land route access to Jaffna. Such a land route is vital for
ongoing military operation in terms of logistic supply and
casualty evacuation," Admiral Sandagiri told IANS.
battlefront reports, he said the fighting spirit among the
LTTE cadres after the fall of Pooneryn and Mankulam "was
at an all-time low, affecting their fighting morale and efficiency".
to Admiral Sandagiri, LTTE chief "(Velupillai) Prabhakaran
believes in fighting, nothing but fighting. He cannot deviate
from his original stand. The LTTE is still left with some
striking capabilities, but such capabilities are badly insufficient
to halt or reverse the current military successes and progresses".
to analysts, losing their strategic strongholds of Pooneryn
in the western coast and Mankulam in southern end of areas
under its control nearly after a decade has been a major blow
to the LTTE, although they have moved their military resources,
including heavy weapons, to safer locations.
is located on the highway that connects the Sri Lankan mainland
to Jaffna in the island's northern tip. Pooneryn is the last
major LTTE naval point on the western coastal belt, from where
the rebels in the past have used their long-range artillery
and mortar guns to fire at military targets in Jaffna peninsula.
gaining control of the entire western coastal belt of over
80 km from the northwestern district of Mannar up to Pooneryn,
the troops, backed by artillery and aerial bombardment, are
now trying to advance towards Kilinochchi town, 350 km north
of here, from various directions, despite heavy LTTE resistance
and the monsoon showers.
LTTE, fighting for a quarter century to carve out a separate
state in the northeast, is facing a critical situation militarily
at a time when it is preparing to commemorate its fallen cadres
in the third week of November.
week-long event ends with an annual speech by LTTE leader
Prabhakaran, who will turn 54 Nov 26. His speech, usually
setting out the outfit's plans for the next year, largely
carries political significance and is closely monitored locally
on the LTTE's fighting capability, Dharmalingham Siddharthan,
the head of the ex-militant People's Liberation Organisation
of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), said that it was "very difficult
to judge the LTTE's fighting ability at a time like this".
I believe that they have about 3,000 battle-hardened cadres.
One cannot expect them to give up so easily, although the
fall of Kilinochchi, their political capital, is very imminent.
It could even happen before Prabhakaran's 54th birthday,"
former MP Siddharathan told IANS.
however, said that the government troops "taking upper
hand militarily will leave the (Mahinda) Rajapaksa government
with no option but to come out with a political solution acceptable
to all the communities sooner than later".
said that successive Sri Lankan governments "have made
the LTTE an excuse and failed to come out with a just political
excuse has been that the LTTE would never settle for a political
solution within a united Sri Lanka and the LTTE has also been
proving them correct.
fall of Kilinochchi will virtually shrink the LTTE-held areas
and confine them to the jungle district of Mullaitivu. With
international pressure, mainly from India, the government
has to come out with a reasonable and lasting political solution,
adequately addressing the prolonging Tamil national question,"
weeks ahead are going to be crucial for Sri Lanka both politically