Posted on January 3rd, 2020


The LTTE  knew that it could not face the Sri Lanka army in regular conflict.  They were not a trained army. On the two occasions when the state army was allowed to fight them properly, they were soundly defeated.( Vadamarachchi,1987 and  Eelam war IV 2009). Clashes with the LTTE had shown the Sri Lanka army  that the LTTE did not know how to fight. At Muhamalai, LTTE had come in a large group, attacking not tactically but from where they could . At Vakarai, a strong LTTE base, they had fled in disarray.  Even the volunteer forces have been able to defeat the LTTE. When LTTE attacked Weli Oya , volunteers under the direction of Brigadier Janaka Perera returned fire. LTTE dropped their weapons and ran.  LTTE lost almost 300 cadres. The army only lost two.  LTTE had not known how to oppose the large scale assault at Puthumathalan in 2009. The army later found Tamil translations of English language books on war strategy among the documents buried by the LTTE . This showed that even at that time, they were still learning  how to fight. 

The media had however, drilled into the minds of the public  the notion that the LTTE was invincible and the Sri Lanka army could not beat the LTTE. ‘Taraki’ said LTTE was the most ferocious and resilient fighting force in the world. Sri Lanka army cannot hope to match it. D.B.S. Jeyaraj said LTTE would deal a knockout blow to the army.This was contested by sceptics who said that the LTTE ‘invincibility’ was an invention of pro-Eelamists. LTTE was only a paper tiger   hyped up by the western media as ‘ferocious and unbeatable’.

LTTE fighting power came from its powerful weapons, sent regularly from overseas.  When ‘Diyakawa’ intercepted a LTTE vessel in 1984, the LTTE were carrying 303 rifles, Diyakawa only had semi automatic weapons.  The LTTE was never short of ammunition for its big guns whereas the military was always short of ammunition and spares.

LTTE knew that they could not defeat the Sri Lanka army in straight battle. So they tried other tactics. Their favorite method was to get the war stopped if the Sri Lanka army was winning and they were losing. They succeeded in this at Vadamarachchi in 1987and hoped for this in Eelam War IV as well. LTTE   also wanted the army kept as far away from the north as possible. When the Saliyapura army base in Anuradhapura was set up LTTE frantically agitated for its removal.

They also agitated to get the army units in the north to leave.  They succeeded in getting the army to vacate two strategic bases,  Valvettiturai and Point Pedro. Further, they said that the sight of airplanes fitted with guns upset the Tamils living in the north and got the guns removed from Air Force planes.  Each time the Air Force went into battle, it had   first to get permission to mount the guns.

The LTTE fought a cowardly, contemptible war. They blasted Kalmadulukulam tank to drown advancing troops from Vishvamadu. The troops consisted of almost 50 battalions of Sri Lanka Light Infantry, Sinha, Gemunu watch, Gajaba, and Vijayabahu.  They blew up Nethali Aru Bridge. At Dharmapuram, they tried to blow up a bridge near Pulathi aru.   At the end of Eelam War IV, LTTE cadres disguised as civilians had approached troops at Karayamullivaikkal on the banks of Nanthikadal lagoon on May 18, 2009. They were not allowed in and when the army fired in the air about 200 LTTE including the ones in civilian attire opened fire. A heavily armed LTTE group had been hiding in a nearby islet. 

LTTE used human shields, suicide bombers, and religious places to prevent the army from attacking them and also trap the army into committing war crimes. Machinery for making claymore mines was located close to orphanages. Air Force couldn’t bomb without harming civilians.  When Air Force attacked Sencholai LTTE alleged that they had hit an orphanage. Sencholai was a training camp containing child soldiers. LTTE fired from places close to hospitals.  The army could not fire back. It is prohibited to direct an attack at an area which shelters the sick and wounded.

LTTE    targeted the armed forces when they were off duty. This was despicable. A truck laden with explosives went into the army base in Nelliady, Jaffna, killing over 50 soldiers who were watching television.  A group of off duty navy personnel  were attacked at a transit point, Digampathana, killing 103   and wounding over 150. The navy vowed to hit back.    ‘Pride of South’, a private vessel taking 1300 military personnel to base was attacked. LTTE killed one soldier and injured two other soldiers in the no fire zone in a 12 hour humanitarian pause.  Buses transporting army personnel were bombed in Colombo on two occasions   suicide bombers hit Sri Lanka Army Headquarters, killing 16.  LTTE killed police as well. A truck carrying Sri Lanka Police Special Task Force personnel were bombed in Ratmalana. A suicide bomber rammed into a bus in Colombo, carrying a police riot squad, killing 11 police officers. .

LTTE did not want to meet the army in battle, so they erected barriers to keep them out. LTTE knew their territory well and used this to construct fortifications that created difficulties for the army. As the terrain and scenario changed so did their fortifications. In May 2009, LTTE hid behind defenses consisting of deep ditches and strong bunds. One complex of fortifications was 800 meters deep and 8 kilometers wide.As they retreated, LTTE cut the ditches, so that lagoon water would flow in. These bunds and ditches posed a massive challenge to the army and hindered operations.  The soldiers had not anticipated them  and had to struggle to demolish them. There was an earth bund from Jaffna lagoon to Kilinochchiand another built across a 12 kilometer stretch from Kilaly to Nagarkovil via Muhamalai. Army took four attempts to clear it, with the loss of about 500 officers and men and hundreds injured.  ( continued)

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