The LTTE "capital" is
the town of Kilinochchi, 330 kilometers north of the Sri Lankan capital of
Colombo. Kilinochchi was captured in 1999, during a major LTTE offensive that
drove the army from the northern tip of the island. But now, after 19 months of fighting, and
nearly 7,000 dead, the army is closing in on Kilinochchi. With that town
captured, the LTTE will be operating more like guerillas than an army. That
would bring an end to a 25 year long rebellion that has killed over 70,000.
In the last
week the fighting has created nearly 500 casualties, most of them poorly
trained LTTE fighters. The LTTE has lost about three-quarters of its northern
territory in the last year or so. The LTTE still has over a thousand veteran
fighters and troop leaders, who could inflict high casualties on advancing army
troops. But if the LTTE losses these key personnel, they lose their ability to
wage a terror campaign, after they have lost control of all their remaining
northern territory. While the LTTE is now dominated by radical factions, some
of the rebel leaders are still willing to make some kind of deal. The question
is, with the LTTE so close to defeat, are enough people in the government
interested in a deal.
2008: Police arrested more than three
dozen LTTE terrorist suspects in the city of Kandy (in the hill country in the
center of the island), after tips led to bomb making materials, and some of
2008: Two LTTE aircraft (single engine
commercial types) bombed a naval base in the north. One of the improvised bombs
did not go off, while the other one wounded four sailors. New government radar
systems spotted the aircraft, as they approached at about 9 PM. Gunfire caused
the two aircraft to turn back before they reached their intended target. The last
LTTE air raid was four months ago.
2008: Acting on a tip, police discovered
suicide bomber belts hidden in a Catholic church in the capital, while in the
city of Kandy, police discovered LTTE bomb making materials. As alert as the
public is to LTTE terrorism efforts, the LTTE persists in planning and carrying
2008: Troops advanced to within artillery
range (about 12 kilometers) of the town of Kilinochchi, the "capital" of the LTTE.
2008: For the first time, the LTTE has
admitted to heavy losses of fighters and territory in the north. The rebels
also warned the government to beware of bombing civilians. The LTTE has long
used civilians as human shields, usually by putting military facilities
(supplies, headquarters, barracks) in civilian residential areas, and forced
the civilians to stick around. If the government bombed anyway, there was some
propaganda value for the rebels. But civilians are increasingly risking the
wrath of the LTTE, and fleeing to government controlled territory.