LTTE intercepts SLA advance
[TamilNet, Friday, 01 January 1999, 17:42 GMT]
The advance by the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) into the Tharavai-Vadamunai hinterland yesterday was intercepted by the Liberation Tigers at Pulipaaintha Kal junction, about 30 kilometers north of Batticaloa, sources in Valaichenai said.
Pulipaaintha Kal stands at the entrance to the large jungle hinterland in the northwestern sector of the Batticaloa district where the Liberation Tigers have training facilities, large military bases, storage dumps etc.,
The region is very sparsely populated, mainly due to forcible eviction of the population in these parts by the SLA between 1991 and 1994. Cultivation was also strictly banned in this fertile hinterland.
The SLA says that overrunning the large Beirut Base of the Liberation Tigers which is located in the thickly forested interior of the Vadamunai region is important for curbing the military power of the organisation in the district. The SLA and the Sinhala press call this area the Thoppigala jungles.
The SLA maintains a detachment near the main entrance to the region which starts from the village of Kiraan, 28 kilometers north of Batticaloa on the main road to Valaichenai. Karuna, one of the LTTE's senior military commanders, is from this hamlet.
The SLA camp is by the bridge across the lagoon on the road from Kiraan which runs west to the Vadammunai region. The Pulipaaintha Kal junction where this road branches off in three direction is less than two kilometers from Kiraan.
SLA troops had set out in the early hours of the morning yesterday from the Kiraan bridge camp and had reached Pulipaaintha Kal (which in Tamil means the rock from which the Tiger leapt) around 1 p.m. in the afternoon.
The progress had been slow, taking more than seven hours, due to the extra-precautions of the SLA's company commanders and because of flooding in the area.
The lagoon, according to Kiraan residents, is overflowing into the fields and swamp on either side of the road between the bridge and Pulipaaintha Kal.
The troops were preparing to advance from the junction in two groups, one on the road north west towards Pendukal Chenai and another on the route running west to Vadamunai when the Tigers had struck.
The Pendukal Chenai road meets the Vadamunai road at the Kudumbi Malai (a hill named thus for the shape of its top) junction.
The two SLA columns had planned to link up here.
However, the Tigers had intercepted the troops before they could advance along the roads.
The LTTE had also shelled the Kiraan bridge camp around 7 a.m. yesterday.
Five soldiers were killed and eleven were wounded in the fighting that erupted at the Pulipaaintha Kal junction said SLA sources in Valaichenai today.
The injured troops were airlifted to the Polannaruwa hospital, 95 kilometers northwest of Batticaloa. One of the soldiers succumbed to his wounds said Hospital sources in Polannaruwa.
The casualties on the LTTE's side are not known yet.
SLA troops withdrew to the Kiraan bridge detachment around 5.30 p.m. in the evening sources in Kiraan said.
The army had cleared the road to Pulipaaintha Kal for the operation by sending out an ambush party to the area on Wednesday night.
Meanwhile, two SLA groups that had entered the Vadamunai jungles from Maduru Oya, which is a large Sinhala settlement irrigation scheme to the west of this region, also returned to base yesterday sources said.
It was not clear whether the Tigers had also engaged the SLA advance from the border area to the west of Vadamunai.
Media in Colombo refer to the area as the Thoppigala jungles. The British had marked this spot as the Gunner's Quoin.
The Sri Lankan government and the chief Buddhist monk of Dimbulugala attempted to settle thousands of Sinhala colonists overnight in this hinterland in 1984 after scaring away Tamils from the villages of Vadamunai, Ooththu Chenai etc.
The Vadamunai region forms the left bank of system B of the ambitious Mahawali development scheme, one of the largest irrigation-settlement projects undertaken by the UNP regime when it was in power from 1977 to 1990.
Dimbulaga Vihara is a Buddhist temple that was established and developed from the seventies in the Sinhala area west of the Tamil border village of Vadamunai.
The chief prelate of the temple had made many attempts since then to settle Sinhalese with the assistance of the Sri Lankan government and the SLA.
Most of these inroads were foiled by Tamil politicians in the Batticaloa district and later by Tamil rebels who found the vast jungles of the region suitable for setting up training camps and bases.