Sri Lanka: Defeat in the East


December28, 2006: In the east, the government has reduced LTTE control to a 22 kilometers stretch of coastline, and is closing in on the port of Trincomalee. Some 30,000 civilians (mostly Tamils) have fled the fighting, which consists largely of mortar and artillery attacks, plus air raids by the air force, and lots of skirmishing by infantry. The LTTE, because of poor troop morale, and superior government firepower, have fallen back, rather than make a stand. In addition, the LTTE has to worry about a dissident faction within its ranks (the "Karuna Group") in the east, which complicates operations and hurts morale. It appears that the LTTE will lose control of the east, although there may be some tough fighting as the hard core LTTE fighters make a last stand. However, most of the senior leaders in the east have already gone off to join the larger LTTE forces in northern Sri Lanka. Thus deprived of leadership, the hard core LTTE fighters may just hide their weapons and blend in with the civilian population. So far this year, there have been at least 10,000 casualties, including about 3,500 dead. Fighting intensified later in the year, and daily casualties now range from a few dozen to several hundred.

December 27, 2006: Sri Lanka has purchased a lot of its bombs and artillery shells from Pakistan. But the quality control of that stuff is low, and about a third of the shells and bombs fail to explode because of defective fuzes. This is not surprising, as the Pakistanis built their munitions industry with Chinese help. The Chinese, in turn, learned their weapons manufacturing from the Soviets, who traditionally produced stuff with a 30-40 percent failure rate.

December 26, 2006: In the north, there is constant skirmishing along the front lines, and some guerilla attacks by individual LTTE fighters, or small groups of them. There is some artillery fire, and occasional air raids.

December 25, 2006: Germany has suspended its aid to Tsunami victims in Sri Lanka because of the fighting in the area where the Tsunami hit two years ago, and killed 30,000 people. Germany has been providing about $200 million a year to the aid effort. But government and LTTE officials have been stealing much of the aid, and the renewed fighting was the last straw. There had been a ceasefire since 2002, but peace negotiations broke down over the issue of establishing a separate Tamil state for the 2.5 million Tamils.

December 23, 2006: About fifteen kilometers off the northern coast, the crew of a Jordanian ship was rescued, by the LTTE, at gunpoint. The ship was having engine trouble, and radioed that it was under attack by pirates. The ship had dropped anchor in order to make repairs. A boatload of LTTE gunmen came aboard, forced the crew to up anchor, forced the crew off, then looted the ship (taking anything light enough to carry, like electronics). After two days of protests by the Jordanian government, the LTTE released the crew. The ship, meanwhile, drifted toward the shore and ran aground. The ship was carrying 14,000 tons of rice from India to South Africa. The LTTE insisted they had done a good deed, and refused to return all the looted equipment.

December 22, 2006: The LTTE is suffering a cash shortage because of its increasingly negative image in the foreign media, and with the governments of nations with large Tamil migrant populations. This has hurt fund raising and, oddly enough, the recruiting of troops. That's because the practice of forcing high school students to job the LTTE combat forces, is now under constant scrutiny by the foreign media. To avoid more bad press, the LTTE has had to either refrain from "recruiting", or release kids it already has. This, in turn, brings kids out of the jungle with stories of threats, getting military haircuts and beginning combat training. Parents of kidnapped children are finding foreign journalists to tell their story to, and the LTTE can't afford to manhandle the foreign journalists too much either.


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