SLA faces tough choices

[TamilNet, Thursday, 01 October 1998, 09:36 GMT]
The Liberation Tigers' Operation Unceasing Waves II has completely destroyed the basic protective stratum of the gateway to Jaffna. The massive Elephant Pass base complex of the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) is now the sole barrier between the Liberation Tigers and the Jaffna peninsula.

The SLA base complex that fell to the Liberation Tigers on Monday lay spread across a fifteen kilometre expanse from the northern part of the Kilinochchi town to Kunchipparanthan, Uruththirapuram and other villages to the west and south west of the highway to Jaffna.

The SLA's Paranthan base now stands completely exposed to barrages from the LTTE's heavy artillery units that have grown more powerful with the acquisition of several big guns from the Kilinochchi base complex on Monday.

Unconfirmed reports said that the Tigers may have removed two 130 mm artillery pieces among other weapons. The 130 mm guns are the most powerful long range artillery in the SLA's arsenal.

As the Liberation Tigers themselves admitted, they had to bring in a large number of civilians on Monday night to help remove weapons, ammunition and vehicles from the Kilinochchi base, as the task was so formidable as to be beyond their capacity.

The quantity of heavy weapons that they seized from the SLA is unprecedented, said an informed source in the Vanni.

In these circumstances, many SLA defence planners appear to feel that the Paranthan camp, located in the premises and buildings of the Chemical Corporation, should be pulled back soon into the Elephant Pass base.

They say that the LTTE can simply overrun this camp that juts out from the gateway to Jaffna, like a narrow promontory in dangerously hostile terrain.

But this throws the planners on the horns of a dilemma; pulling back the Paranthan camp will expose the Elephant Pass base - or at least one of its key sectors - to the Liberation Tigers.

The problem facing the Sri Lankan government now is that the LTTE may overrun at least part of the Elephant Pass base with its greatly enhanced fire power, which could eventually bring the Thenmaradchi division of the Jaffna peninsula under the LTTE control.

Solving this problem by retaking Kilinochchi is currently impossible given the logistical difficulties of launching another massive thrust from the air and sea supplied peninsula.

But saving Jaffna's strategic gateway by attempting to push north with greater speed on the A9 highway is quite evidently an impossible task, judging from the fierce resistance put up by the Liberation Tigers at Mankulam junction yesterday.

The Sri Lankan army claimed it had captured the town but the Voice of Tigers radio said that there was heavy fighting near Mankulam junction yesterday.

One informed analyst in Colombo said that if the army had indeed captured Mankulam yesterday morning, the LTTE would not have been able to arrange the handing over of the six hundred bodies of SLA troops to the ICRC at Mallavi which is eight kilometers west of the town.

Related Articles:
30.09.98   Tigers hand over 600 SLA bodies
30.09.98   Mankulam captured - Radio
28.09.98   Kilinochchi base captured - LTTE
27.09.98   MoD says 'in control'


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