|Tigers on defensive as Sri Lanka military closes in|
|Friday, 19 September 2008|
Fri Sep 19,
COLOMBO (AFP) - Tamil Tigers were once regarded one of the world's most ruthlessly efficient rebels, but they risk losing their mini-state as Sri Lankan forces make a determined push after decades of bloodshed. After months of bitter fighting, security forces have reached the outskirts of the Tiger political capital -- Kilinochchi -- the six-kilometre (four-mile) long township along the main A-9 highway to the Jaffna peninsula.Aid workers who evacuated Kilinochchi this week -- in line with a government order to leave ahead of an expected military show down -- said bombs and artillery shells were landing just within the political offices of the Tigers.
"The military advance is getting closer to Kilinochchi and the Tigers may simply melt away," an aid official who declined to be named said soon after leaving the north.Sri Lanka's top brass had said they want to take Kilinochchi before the end of the year, but defence analysts argue that it must be done sooner as monsoon rains could intensify and render heavy armour ineffective from about October.
For the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Kilinochchi is the show piece town where they hosted visiting foreign dignitaries and peace brokers.The Tigers also maintain their 'police headquarters,' their 'high courts' and their 'Bank of Eelam' which functions as the quasi monetary authority of the de facto separate state within Sri Lanka.The Tigers, who have been fighting for full independence for the island's Tamil minority since 1972, have warned that the vast Wanni region, encompassing 5,000 square kilometers in the northern part of Sri Lanka, could become a mass grave for security forces if they tried to capture Kilinochichi.There has been ferocious resistance along at least two of the six fronts opened by Sri Lankan forces, but so far the promised fight back has not materialised. Sri Lankan forces are vastly superior in numbers and fire power."Unlike in the past, the army is moving in smaller groups and on a broader front," said retired brigadier general Vipul Boteju.
"That is the secret of their success, but they need to take Kilinochchi before heavy rains."Boteju said downpours could make artillery and armour ineffective and force both sides to engage in close range fighting.Sri Lanka's top defence official, Gotabhaya Rajapakse, said the military is bracing for tougher battles, but remained convinced it could crush the Tigers."The LTTE has never faced this type of pressure from all these fronts," he told the state-run Daily News in an interview last week. "Actually we have still not committed our full strength in the offensives."The exact strength of the Tigers was never clear, but local and foreign military intelligence agencies had placed the number of hard core Tiger combatants at anything between 5,000 to 15,000.Sri Lanka's military says it has killed over 6,000 rebels this year alone, while saying it has lost 645 of its own troops during the same period.Despite steadily losing territory in their strongholds, defence analysts believe that the Tigers may still have a large number of suicide cadres who could be activated to carry out devastating attacks elsewhere.
The Tigers also have their own sea-going outfit and light aircraft that have been used in bombing raids as far south as the capital Colombo.They have also appeared to be on the brink of defeat in the past. In December 1995 they lost their hold over the Jaffna peninsula, which Colombo regarded as the fountain head of Tamil separatism in the Sinhala-majority nation. The army went on to take Kilinochchi, only to face a devastating counter attack in 1999.
(Courtesy : AFP )
|Last Updated ( Monday, 09 March 2009 )|
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