|Troops 5 kms from Kilinochchi city limits - Tigers pull out the gas|
|Monday, 22 September 2008|
by: Ranga Jayasuriya
In the early hours of Monday, units of the Special Forces, armed with Light Anti-Tank Weapons, Rocket Propelled Grenades and Light Machine Guns were ready for a daring mission. They stormed a heavily fortified trench line of the LTTE on the bund of the Akkarayankulam tank, taking the defending Tiger cadres by surprise and dislodging them from a stretch of 4 kilometres of the guerrilla defence line. The attack was so swift and coordinated that the LTTE had difficulty in evacuating wounded cadres at one point of the battle, a senior military official said.
Then the unexpected happened. Some soldiers began to feel a strong burning sensation in their eyes, some started vomiting and losing consciousness. It became obvious that the LTTE had used a chemical substance for the first time in the fourth Eelam war. Affected soldiers were evacuated. Twelve soldiers fell sick, but they recovered in a few hours. On the same day, a platoon of soldiers of the Eight Gajaba Regiment operating in Vannivilankulam came under a similar attack.
Initial fears were that the Tigers directed a chemical attack using chlorine gas. The LTTE previously used chlorine gas against Kiran army camp in 1990. Later, military officials confirmed that the substance in question was CS Gas, a commonly used riot control agent. The reputed medical journal, BMJ, describes CS gas as: “Law enforcement agencies have found this agent invaluable when faced with combative suspects, for riot control, and for alleviating hostage and siege situations. They use it to help control individuals or groups without the need for lethal force. The chemical was used for crowd control as early as the 1950s, but not until the mid-1960s did it come into common use in several countries.”Special Forces commandos are trained in dealing with chemical attack during their preliminary training. CS gas is also used in training for Special Forces in many countries.
US forces in Vietnam used CS gas extensively to smoke out Viet Cong rebels from tunnels and trenches. According to conventional estimates, 15 million pounds (7500 tons) of CS was used during the Vietnam War. It was also used by the North Vietnamese forces in some battles and most notably during the Easter Offensive in 1972.During a search and clear operations after the battle on Monday, troops found several used canisters of CS gas. The Army said 28 LTTE cadres were killed and 29 wounded in fighting on Monday.
On the following day, troops were issued with gas masks to face any eventuality. Earlier, former LTTE Eastern commander Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias Karuna warned of the danger that the LTTE might opt to a chemical attack as the last resort. The late Anton Balasingham had once reportedly told the Tamil Diaspora that the Tigers were developing a secret weapon in the war against the government.The fundamental problem in the use of chemical gases in open terrains is that if it is to be successfully deployed, it needs to be discharged in large quantities and that would require a sophisticated delivery mechanism.
A Sri Lankan Special Force Soldier with Gas Mask
The LTTE does not posses that capability at the moment though it is likely to use chemical agents by mortar and artillery batteries.As the security forces close in on Kilinochchi, bitter battles broke out throughout last week. Some units of the army are operating 5 kilometres from the city limits of Kilinochchi town. Last week, troops bombarded a trench line which is being built by the LTTE using heavy machinery. The LTTE was using the existing soil bund and trench line leading to the A 9 road.The existing trench line runs from Nachchikudah to Akkaraikulam tank. Fortified by a 12 feet sand bund, it has bunkers built on every 100 metres and snipers deployed to target troops who try to cross open terrain, which lies ahead of the sand bund.
On Wednesday, guerrillas directed three coordinated attacks against troops of 57 Division on the stretch running from Akkarayankulam to Therimudikandi.Bitter battles broke out in the West of Vannerikulam as the troops of 58 Division attacked the forward defence bunker line of the guerrillas.Troops of 6 Gamunu Watch and 12 Gamunu Watch raided the guerrilla bunker line in Vannerikulam while the air force provided close air support. Twelve soldiers were killed in the bitter fighting which lasted five hours. According to reports, LTTE reinforcements have been deployed from the Northern front. As the battle for Kilinochchi intensifies, the LTTE is likely to call for additional cadres from the Northern front, which has been defended tooth and nail by the Tigers. As the units of 57 Division push towards Mankulam, the second major town next to Kilinochchi on the A 9 road, there are also reports of the LTTE beefing up its presence in the town. If the forces capture Mankulam, they would naturally be in control of the Southward stretch of the A 9 Road.
Meanwhile, a fierce sea battle raged as the navy’s Special Boat Squadron and Rapid Action Boat Squadron attacked, last Thursday, a flotilla of sea Tiger boats in the coastal waters off Valaipadu, Nachchikudah.The Navy said at least twenty five LTTE cadres were killed and 10 LTTE boats including three large attack craft were destroyed in the battle.The LTTE boats were believed to be transporting additional cadres to the Wanni front. The naval offensive underscores the operational effectiveness of the SBS and RABS, which enjoys an enhanced mobility since the induction of up-graded Arrow Boats.
The navy’s elite force, the SBS and RABS have countered the advantage enjoyed by the Sea Tigers in the shallow sea where the navy’s Dvora Fast Attack Craft lack operational mobility. The new Arrow Boats were the outcome of the navy’s home grown Research and Development programme.
Meanwhile, international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) announced last week that they had pulled out from the Wanni following the orders by Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. The International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) is the only INGO which has a presence in the Wanni at the moment. The ICRC last week shifted its Kilinochchi offices from Iranamadu junction to Iraththinapuram, a suburb of Kilinochchi town after artillery shells fell in close proximity to its office premises.
On Wednesday, four Mig 27 ground attack craft and F 7G fighter jets bombed a house believed to be frequented by the Tiger supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran. The following day, MIG 27 ground attack craft bombed another hideout of the Tiger leader based on ground intelligence provided by the Army. This is the second occasion that the air force bombed this place. However, intelligence sources could not confirm the extent of damage of the two air attacks.
(Courtesy : Lakbima News )
|Last Updated ( Monday, 09 March 2009 )|
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