Sri Lanka: The War Continues

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October 23,2008:  During the first nine months of the year, the army lost 1,099 dead, and about 7,000 wounded. September was a bad month, with 200 dead and 997 wounded. The government claims it has killed 7,500 LTTE fighters, but some of this is based on estimates after air attacks. The actual number of dead LTTE fighters counted by Sri Lankan soldiers is about half that. To put it in perspective, it would be equivalent to a nation the size of the United States losing 20,000 war dead in one year, and nearly 100,000 wounded. Since this is a civil war, you more than triple those losses to include the rebel casualties. The current Sri Lankan government is a coalition with a thin majority. The government needs a quick end to the war to stay in power. But too many army casualties will diminish the victory. Army commanders are hoping for an LTTE surrender, but fear it may end with deadly attacks by the LTTEs remaining veteran fighters and commandos. Worst case, the army could lose a thousand or more dead before finishing this.

LTTE attempts, to get sympathetic politicians in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu to force India to intervene to stop the army offensive, have failed. While the Tamil Nadu politicians could have brought down the current Indian government by leaving the governing coalition, they didn't. Meanwhile, the Indian government said the right things ("Sri Lanka must stop attacking the LTTE"), but did nothing. The war continues.

October 22, 2008: Three LTTE suicide boats attacked two cargo ships delivering supplies to the Jaffna peninsula (at the northern tip of the island, but cut off from the rest of the island by LTTE controlled  territory to the south, forcing the government to use ships to supply the half million people in Jaffna.) The two ships were damaged. Two of the three suicide bombers involved were senior officers in the "Black Tigers" suicide attack organization of the LTTE.

October 21, 2008: In the last few days, the army has suffered over a hundred casualties, including 33 killed. This is the result of stiffer LTTE resistance in front of their capital of Kilinochchi. To make matters worse, heavy rains have slowed army vehicles moving troops and supplies to the front. Thus while some troops are less than two kilometers from Kilinochchi, the bulk of the army forces are stuck 10-15 kilometers further back.

October 20, 2008: LTTE fighters launched an attack on an army position south of Kilinochchi, but were repulsed. The army has its people on high alert, because if the LTTE is going to use its commandos or veteran troops for surprise attacks, it's going to be right about now.

October 19, 2008: Soldiers captured a bunker line (19 structures) south of the LTTE capital of Kilinochchi. This is believed to be the last major defensives outside the town. The army accused the LTTE of using tear gas against advancing army troops. Not exactly chemical warfare, but unusual, and desperate.

October 16, 2008: A UN aid convoy, carrying 750 tons of food, had to turn back when it ran into a firefight between army and LTTE forces. The convoy get through two days later. There are over a quarter million Tamils still living under LTTE control, and they depend on foreign aid agencies to survive. The LTTE needs to control a portion of the LTTE population in order to recruit fighters and suicide bombers.

 

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