Sri Lanka: The Elusive Last Stand

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April 1, 2009: The LTTE is, officially, defending less than a square kilometer of territory in the northeast. Most LTTE operations are now taking place inside the 20 square kilometer "neutral zone" set up to protect the Tamil civilians the LTTE fighters have forced to serve as human shields. Most LTTE fighters, including those operating artillery and mortars, are inside the neutral zone. It is believed that only about 50,000 Tamil civilians remain in the neutral zone, and over 2,000 a day have been getting out. That's because of the small number of LTTE fighters still active. The LTTE doesn't have enough armed people to stop the human shields from fleeing. The army has three divisions of troops surrounding the neutral zone, and LTTE fighters who show themselves get attacked. There are over a hundred casualties a day, most of the LTTE fighters or Tamil civilians being used as human shields. The LTTE continues to try and shoot their way past the Sri Lankan army, to get key people into Sri Lanka, where they can continue the fight by organizing guerilla and terror operations.

Three years ago, the LTTE controlled 15,000 square kilometers of land. Now they are trying to flee their last scrap of contested territory. In southern India, special army units have been sent in to search for any LTTE personnel who have escaped across the narrow straits. There are many LTTE sympathizers in this part of India (Tamil Nadu state), and the soldiers are sometimes going house to house, checking Ids and looking for known LTTE officials reported to be in the area.

The Sri Lankan army believes that the LTTE has less than a thousand fighters left, but many of these are veterans. These LTTE gunmen are expert at staying hidden and attacking the soldiers when they least expect it. While not numerous enough to defeat the army, the remaining LTTE fighters have slowed down the army advance. Then there is the "I don't want to be the last man to die" problem that crops up when a war is just about over. Not as many troops want to take chances at this point. Better to let things take a little longer, than to risk your life to end the war today.

With the war ending, and the LTTE unable to launch terror attacks throughout the country, the economy continues to rebound. The government expects to see growth of more than five percent this year.

March 31, 2009:  The body of another LTTE senior leader was found after a firefight. S. Kirupakaran was in charge of LTTE communications, and had set up satellite communications for the organization. But today he died fighting the army, there being no more LTTE satellite dishes to look after. It appears that the senior leadership of the LTTE has remained in this shrinking bit of territory in the northeast, determined to fight to the death. It's presumed that this includes supreme LTTE leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran as well. Troops believe Prabhakaran has expert bodyguards, and anyone encountering the big man and his gunmen, will be in for a fierce fight. Prabhakaran is also believed hiding out in the neutral zone, surrounded by human shields. So taking him will not only be risky to the soldiers, but also to a lot of Tamil civilians as well. Prabhakaran has vowed to fight to the death, and is apparently sticking to that promise. This would benefit Sri Lanka, as they feared Prabhakaran would escape and continue to lead and coordinate violence on the island.

The government has withdrawn troops from refugee camps holding over 60,000 civilians who escaped the LTTE neutral zone. The soldiers were replaced by Sri Lankan civil servants. The army found that there were few LTTE operatives coming over with the civilian refugees.

March 30, 2009:  The navy caught four LTTE suicide boats at sea, and destroyed them off the neutral zone on the northeast coast. Among the LTTE 40-50 dead was Maran, the head of the Sea Tigers (the LTTE navy).

 

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