Lankan troops consolidate position in Mullaitivu

January 27th, 2009 - 6:35 pm ICT by IANS  

Mullaitivu (Sri Lanka), Jan 27 (IANS) Sri Lankan troops are busy building fresh bunkers and consolidating their newly established positions in Mullaitivu town, which they captured from the Tamil Tiger rebels Sunday after 12 years.After capturing Mullaitivu, the military nerve centre of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) the troops have begun laying what they called “the final siege” on the rebels. The guerrillas were offering desperate resistance to the advancing troops despite shrinking territories.

The troops began the operation one year ago, fought their way through 40 km of thick jungles from Weli-Oya to fully capture the Mullaitivu town, lying across the Nanthikkadal lagoon.

Brigadier Nandana Udawatte, who commandeered the 59 Division troops that captured the Mullaitivu town, said the LTTE had put up three rings of defence lines around the town and were fiercely resisting frontal assaults of the troops.

“While keeping up pressure from south, we used boats to cross the lagoon and launched a surprise attack that made the rebels retreat with heavy damages,” Brigadier Udawatte told visiting journalists.

Although the soldiers manning the former LTTE bastion looked relaxed, a group of foreign and local journalists flown from Colombo could hear heavy artillery gunfire exchange in the distance.

“Beyond a causeway just north of here is where the LTTE is holding their forward defence positions now. The exchange of firing you hear is taking place about two to three kilometers away from where we are,” a soldier of the Army’s 59 Division said.

Most of the buildings bear the battle scars while the town’s power station stood empty, without its roof.

Claiming that the Tigers still have “a few pockets of jungle resistance keeping thousands of civilians as shields”, a military official here said that the troops were now “moving to secure the coastal stretch and deprive the LTTE the use of the sea”, which the rebels have been using to unload weapons from ships in the international sea waters.

The army last controlled the isolated army camp located in Mullaitivu in 1996 and it was overrun by the LTTE July 18, 1996. It went down in military history as one of the major debacles losing a large haul of weapons including long range artillery and mortars and more than 1,000 soldiers.

According to reports, with the capture of Mullaitivu the LTTE has now been confined to a 280 square km territory in the Puthukkudiyiruppu and Vishwamadhu areas which are also under immense pressure of the advancing troops.

Velupillai Prabhakaran, who founded the LTTE in 1976, is known to have deep and seemingly secure underground caves and bunkers in the dense forests of Mullaitivu, from where he oversaw the war against Indian troops in Sri Lanka in 1987-90.

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