As the troops of the 57 Division under the command of Brigadier Jagath Dias and 58 Division under the command of Brigadier Shavendra Silva created the widest ever battle front in the Wanni, the Tiger outfit that operated in the West of A-9 and in the North-Western coast faced difficulties in continuing their terror plans as they wished. With the advancement of the troops further Northwards from the Mannar -Vavuniya Road taking control many of their strategic bases such as Adampan, Parappakadattan, Madhu, Palampiddi and Periyamadu the LTTE had feared that they would lose the control over the Tamil population and pushed them further Northward keeping them as a shield.
However, many people who had fled towards the North-Western coast from the inland, started to flee towards Mannar from Viddattaltivu, sometimes paying their life long wealth to the LTTE. They opted to live with their relatives in the South rather than living in the LTTE controlled areas.
Some youth, who dared to desert the LTTE, walked along the shallow waters of the Mannar coast to reach Mannar braving all sorts of LTTE obstacles to prevent them from doing so.
With the liberation of the ‘Rice Bowl’, the LTTE lost its influence on the Mannar population as they used to control the Mannar Tamil population to reach their ulterior objectives. Even from the Viddathalthivu, the LTTE managed to keep contacts with the Mannar population.
Therefore, it was an urgent requirement for the 58 Division under the command of Brigadier Shavendra Silva to take control of Viddattalitvu, the largest Sea Tiger base of the LTTE in the North-Western coast. It was the main logistic hub the LTTE had in the North-Western coast for the supply of fuel and other essentials to the inland after transporting them in small boats.
Following the completion of the liberation of the Mannar ‘Rice Bowl’ operation Brigadier Shavendra Silva mainly focused on this strategic LTTE and deployed elite Commandos to infiltrate into Viddathalthivu.
As LTTE was aware that it would soon come under threat they created huge ditch cum earth bunds to prevent the troops breaching their defences. Those earth bunds were turned into death traps of heavy mine fields and booby traps.
Even the ditches ahead of them were turned into death traps as they dug more than six feet deep and filled them with water. Any attempt to infiltrate them would trap them in mines, booby traps or drowning in the ditches.
The 2 Commando troops operating under the 58 Division soon after the liberation of the ‘Rice Bowl’, made several attempts to launch head on attack on the LTTE defences in Viddattaltivu. They failed in their attempts as LTTE confronted them heavily and some commando troops went missing.
Despite this situation following the successful capture of the Mannar ‘Rice Bowl’ troops within 24 hours commenced their march towards Vidattaltivu.
Troops halted 200m South of the above-mentioned strong LTTE defence and waited until the new front opened up by the 582 Brigade and the Commandos to make their approach from the East. This new front 10 Km East of Vidattaltivu managed to reach Mannar-Poonaryn Road North of Vidattaltivu within one week.
While conquering the strong LTTE defence line in the South, troops braved dense mine fields removing hundreds of anti-personnel mines, improvised explosive devices and booby traps.
During the last 10 days, troops looking inflict maximum attrition on the terrorists, attacked and destroyed a large number of bunkers situated along the LTTE defence. At least 100 LTTE cadres killed and equal number or more were wounded during these confrontations. Also, commandos alone found 28 bodies of slain LTTE cadres during this period.
At this juncture the 582 Brigade which operated from the East of Viddataltivu moved from East to West. The task of breaching the defences was once again given to the 2 Commando Regiment in the absence of its Commanding Officer Major Jayantha Balasuriya to its 2 in Command Major Shamal Silva to handle the commando troops.
The troops were in a more advantageous position by this time as the 57 Division and the 58 Division maintained a link between the two fronts. The 2 Commando troops therefore, decided to avoid head on approach to this strategic location, considering the human cost of the operation and decided to move from Periyamadu.
They made a night move towards this strategic base from East to West direction on July 15 whilst troops South of Viddattaltivu made fresh attempts to reach the defences from the southern direction.
The Commando troops reached outskirts of the Viddathaltivu from Periyamadu direction passing a tank under the cover of darkness. By 4 a.m. on July 16, four eight-man teams took their positions North of Viddattaltivu.
They laid ambush from four locations on the Mannar-Pooneryn A-32 Road. Even after dawn the LTTE was not aware that Viddattaltivu was under siege and they continued their supplies to the town unaware of the fact that Commando troops were inside the town. They noticed the presence of the troops only when two canter trucks were blown off by the commando troops who had laid in ambush and cut off the A-32 Road from the North.
The Commandos confronted a group of approximately 60 LTTE cadres around 1.45 p.m. As the terrorist started to withdraw towards Iluppaikkadaval, North of Vidattaltivu, commandos called in indirect fire. As a result, heavy artillery and multi-barrel rocket fire were directed at the terrorists. Also, Air Force launched close air support missions to ground troops using MI 24 helicopter gunships. Ground troops killed over 30 terrorists by artillery and air assault. The rest turned their tail.
After this confrontation, two eight-man teams were sent into the town and they reported that the LTTE was vacating the town and fleeing the area loading their stuff into boats. Troops of the 9 Gemunu watch under the command of Lt. Colonel Lal Chandrasiri took control of the areas captured by the Commando troops whilst troops operating South of Viddattaltivu also entered the town from the South.
LTTE fled the town after blowing off the water tank and destroying many of their facilities. The entire Viddattaltivu town, its jetty and all other Tiger assets left behind by the LTTE were taken control by the Security Forces after almost 21 years. Not hitherto even during major military operations such as Ranagosa and Jayasikuru had the Army been able to cross the strong LTTE defence that ran over 10 km East from the Southern coast of Viddattaltivu.
Having hoisted the national flag on this vital Sea Tiger base, the troops did not end their mission there. The 58 Division troops were aware that their mission to capture their next target would be easier as long as they made that attempt as early as possible. They did not want to give the LTTE time to create death traps for the soldiers advancing towards their next target Illuppakadavai, located 12 Km North of Viddattaltivu.
Therefore, the 58 Division troops slowly advanced towards their next target taking control of the A-32 Road step by step and prepared for the assault on the Illuppaikkadavai town which was comparatively a well built-up township on the North Western coast. The troops attached to the 10th Gajaba Regiment under the Command of Lt. Colonel Sarada Samarakoon, were deployed in the East and West of A-32 Road.
Alpha and Delta companies under the Officer Command of Captain Chinthaka de Silva and Captain Aruna Kumara deployed their troops East of A-32 Road whilst Bravo Company and Charlie Company under the officer command of Probation Officer Rukman Weerawardena and Lieutenant Ratwatte deployed their troops on the west of A-32 Road.
On July 18, the Bravo Company, which advanced from the West of A-32 Road confronted a group of Tiger cadres South of Illuppakadavai as the LTTE had expected the troops from the South.
During that confrontation private Premadasa sacrificed his life and 16 others sustained injuries. The resistance of the LTTE came as they were preparing to withdraw further North of Illuppakkadavai in the face of the troop advance.
On July 18 Alpha and Delta Companies deployed east of A-32 Road were moving further North of Illuppakkdavai to cut off the road from the North. They cut off the A-32 Road on July 19 to fully secure the area whilst engaging Tiger cadres in mortar and artillery.
It was on July 20 that troops fully secured Illuppakkadavai town flushing out all Tiger cadres there towards the North. The two Commando Regiments and the all the battalions under the command of the 58 Division contributed towards this victory making another giant stride in their forward march. Saturday, August 2, 2008
After Illuppakadavai, the 58 Division moved into Vellankulam completing their task in the Mannar district. They moved into the town after crossing a number of earth bunds on August 2, 2008.
In this operation, Sri Lanka Air Force deployed its MI 24 fighter helicopters to attack LTTE bunkers and to bring reinforcements for Army personnel. Meanwhile, ground troops had given perfect locations of LTTE military installation which enabled the Air Force fighter jets to bomb and destroy the exact targets.
As the 58 Division speedily advanced further northward along the A-32 Road, the 57 Division under the command of Brigadier Jagath Dias, also moved towards two strategically important Tiger strongholds in the Mullaitivu district - Thunukkai and Mallavi.
After the capture of Palampiddi and Periyamadu, the troops had to operate in thick jungle patches. They had to pass more than 20 to 30 Km stretch in thick jungles where they did not have any supply routes.
However, they cleared supply routes through the jungle patches without advancing on the routes cleared by the LTTE for their operations.
The capture of Thunukkai, the LTTE’s strategic base was given to the 572 Brigade under the command of Lt. Colonel Senerath Bandara. Thunukkai is situated in the middle of the Mankulam-Vellankulam Road that links the Mannar-Pooneryn A-32 Road with the Jaffna-Kandy A-9 Road and is a major town where the LTTE had the largest number of their offices after Kilinochchi.
The gateway to Thunukkai was first opened with troops capturing Kalvilan, a village located two kilometres Southwest of Thunukkai town.The LTTE made use of this village to attack the troops that advanced towards Thunukkai positioning their mortar and 12.7 mm guns in the Kalvilan village.
Troops attached to 7 Sri Lanka Light Infantry Battalion marked the victory of Kalvilan on August 15, a week prior to the capture of Thunukkai.
With the capture of Kalvilan, the LTTE intensified its fire power targeting the Kalvilan Thunukkai road.
But troops opted alternative routes to achieve their task sometime using armour assault on their strong bunkers.
However, with the capture of Kalvilan, the troops exploited the Tiger cadres’ withdrawal towards Thunukkai without delaying the advance towards Thunukkai to push the LTTE further towards the North.
The decisive battle to capture this strategically important township started on August 21, 2008 morning with 7 Sri Lanka Light Infantry battalion under the command of Lt. Col. Ranjith Abeyratne asigned the task. Four small teams advanced towards Thunukkai town amidst artillery and mortar fire towards Thunukkai.
Tiger cadres made continuous attempts to stop the advancing troops, deploying two special teams. However, troops were able to reach five way junction in Thunukkai by 5 p.m. on August 21. Two soldiers sacrificed their lives by that time and three others sustained injuries during that confrontation.
As troops observed the presence of Tiger cadres close to five way junction, four MI-24 helicopters took the precise target exactly at 5.45 p.m. Troops stopped their mission for that day after they got confirmation that at least 20 Tiger cadres were killed due to the air attack. Troops
also observed the way LTTE cadres reacted to the MI-24 assault on them by firing towards MI-24s.
On August 22, Friday at 6.45 am the troops began their mission once again with the objective of completing their task. The LTTE had not given up the task of pushing the troops from this strategically important town. They continued their 120 mm and 122 mm artillery assaults on Thunukkai. The Security Forces too reacted to these artillery assaults effectively. By this time the 10th Battalion of the Sri Lanka Light Infantry under the command of Lt. Colonel Jagath Kodithuwakku had captured Uyilankulam town located 7 Kilometres North of Thunukkai following a strategic move bypassing Thunukkai town.
It was exactly at 11.40 a.m. on August 22, 2008 troops of the 7 SLII entered the centre of Thunukkai town as Tiger cadres were fleeing towards Mallavi while firing artillery and mortar at the troops and abandoning their armour plated tractor and few other vehicles.
The next move of the 57 Division was to capture Mallavi, the LTTE’s second most important administrative township in Mullaitivu.