Pallai, Soranpattu liberated, army poised to take Elephant Pass

*Nearly 200 civilians escape as area under Tiger control shrinks east of A9

SLAF zeroed-in-on Sea Tiger boats, artillery pieces

With the LTTE rapidly losing control of its territory east of the A9 road amid rapid collapse of defences on the neck of the Jaffna peninsula, the army expects civilians trapped in the war zone to escape.

Army Chief Lt. General Sarath Fonseka recently said that the LTTE had been boxed into a triangular space even smaller than the Thoppigala-Narakkamulla area in the East. The war veteran said that their supply routes had been blocked and the army was steadily advancing on the remaining bases.

"They should take advantage of the rapidly deteriorating LTTE position on the battle-field to flee the area," a senior military official told The Island, urging civilians to run away from LTTE-held areas. The LTTE wouldn’t have the time or resources to stop people from fleeing.

The army had on Thursday evening liberated Murasamoddai, situated 5.5 kilometres off Paranthan on the road (A 35) leading to Mullaitivu. Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa recently told The Island that liberation of Murasamoddai would help civilians to escape.

The army said that 140 civilians had reached 58 Division conducting operations west of Murasamoddai, northwest of Murasamoddai and the east of Karadipokku on Tuesday (6). They had come from Vaddakachchi and east of Murasamoddai, the army said. Among the escapees were 29 children.

On the same day, 26 civilians had surrendered to 57 Division troops conducting operations north of Iranamadu on the same day. One two year-old child is among the escapees.

The army said that 18 more civilians had reached 57 Division north of Iranamadu on the following day.

The navy said that 31 civilians including nine children had reached the SLN detachment at Pulmoddai also on Tuesday aboard a fiber glass dinghy (FGD) fitted with a 15 horse power out board motor. The navy said that arrangements had been made to receive civilians with stand-by rescue and medical teams on special deployment off Mullaitivu coast.

On the Jaffna front, the 55 Division liberated Soranpattu, an LTTE stronghold situated between Pallai and the strategic Iyakachchi junction along the A9 road. Hours before the 55 Division had secured Soranpattu, the 53 liberated Pallai, situated about 5.2 kilometres off Soranpattu.

With the fall of Soranpattu, nine kilometres off Elephant Pass, the gateway to the Jaffna peninsula would now be targeted by the two flanks, a senior official said.

The Jaffna Divisions launched operations on Tuesday as the 58 Division blocked the southern entry point of the Elephant Pass. The 53 Division, commanded by Brigadier Kamal Gunarathne and the 55 Division, commanded by Brigadier Prasanna Silva had been engaged in heavy battles on the neck of the Jaffna peninsula. 

The army said that the army could liberate Elephant Pass and restore the Kandy-Jaffna A9 road within as quickly as a week.

The Jaffna Divisions which had taken heavy losses on four previous occasions to move forward from their positions faced a depleted enemy, the army said. Since the launch of offensive action last Tuesday, the army had advanced rapidly for about six kilometres as the LTTE retreated on an eight kilometre-wide front extending from Kilali to Muhamalai.

The air force had engaged LTTE units withdrawing from the Jaffna peninsula on Wednesday and Thursday. Jets launched from Katunayake had zeroed-in-on LTTE units in the Chundikulam lagoon. Air force spokesperson Wing Commander Janaka Nanayakkara told The Island last night that jets had attacked two large Sea Tiger craft in the Chundikulam lagoon and two artillery pieces in the Chundikulam area as they were pulling out. Jets also mounted a separate attack in support of the 59 Division conducting operations on the Mullaitivu front.

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