Sri Lanka: To The Victor Goes The Guerilla War

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January 30, 2009: About 50,000 soldiers from four divisions are closing in on a force of about 3-4,000 LTTE fighters (most of them recent conscripts). LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran appears to have gotten away, along with the three single engine aircraft the LTTE is known to have. While the army has captured six LTTE airfields in the last few weeks, there has been no sign of those three aircraft (which exist partly to get senior leaders in and out of the island). Prabhakaran is a wanted man in India, but he has many admirers in southern India and in expatriate Tamil communities throughout the West.  

Troops captured Visuamadu, and are seeking to destroy the remaining LTTE artillery, which is being used to fire into a no-combat zone the army has established for escaping Tamil civilians. It's uncertain what the LTTE endgame is here. As usual, they are trying to play the victim to the international media. But past LTTE scams now come back to haunt them, and they have little credibility. The Sri Lankan government expects the remaining thousand or so veteran LTTE fighters to soon ditch their weapons and uniforms, and attempt to blend in with the 200,000 Tamil civilians the LTTE have been holding (often at gunpoint). The LTTE will then undertake a guerilla war campaign. That won't be so easy. The LTTE lost control of the east coast of Sri Lanka last year, and efforts to get a guerilla war going there have not been very successful. The Sri Lankan Tamils are tired of the decades of fighting, at least for now.

January 29, 2009: UN aid workers finally convinced remaining LTTE fighters to allow the evacuation of injured civilians from remaining LTTE controlled territory. The LTTE has been using many of those civilians as human shields, expecting international outcry over civilian casualties to cause the army to fire at LTTE forces less. This would enable the LTTE to improve their defenses and maneuver into better positions.

January 26, 2009:  Troops continue capturing coastal areas long held by the LTTE, and seizing various specialized boats used for smuggling. The LTTE is now largely cut off from sea access to the outside, except for 30 kilometers of coastline.

January 25, 2009:  Troops captured the last major town, Mullaittivu, held by the LTTE (since 1996). This reduces the are held by the LTTE to about 300 square kilometers. The remaining LTTE fighters are not letting civilians escape to government held territory. This includes the wounded.

January 24, 2009: In an attempt to halt the enemy advance, the LTTE blew open an irrigation canal, flooding a large area, and trying to escape via the flood waters in boats. Most of the boats were sunk or damaged by nearby soldiers.

 

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