Last battle this week
Next 72 hours crucial for the LTTE, says military

As ground battles raged on the eastern flank with troops making slow but steady progress, the military yesterday asserted that the final outcome of the Eelam war IV would be decided within this week.

A senior officer directing operations said that the next 72 hours would be crucial as the LTTE, struggling to stall the army, would mount counter attacks whatever the losses that would entail in terms of both men and material.

With the area under its control now down to about 45 sq. km with direct access to the north-east sea restricted to about ten km, the LTTE was likely even to launch mass suicide attacks, these sources said asserting "we are ready for any eventuality." Two major confrontations between the 58 Division and heavily armed LTTE units, in some instances spearheaded by LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran’s personal bodyguard, in the early hours of Thursday and Friday had signaled the Tigers’ readiness for the final showdown.

"They have no option but to throw everything they have at the army," the officer said.

Had Thursday’s counter attack directed at the 58 Division troops south of Chalai succeeded, the LTTE would have been able to delay the army’s progress, he explained.

Although the LTTE had overrun several positions held by Brigadier Shavendra Silva’s 58 Division troops deployed on an islet who then crossed over to the mainland, the army had responded swiftly to the threat.

Within hours, the 58 Division, under the directions of Silva who also heads the Commando Regiment, had closed the gap, regained the islet and recovered bodies of almost 50 attackers, both men and women.

The army said that the enemy’s battle-plan was clear. "They recaptured the islet to use it as a platform to raid the mainland. The majority of those who reached the mainland after crossing the islet were killed by troops. Others were shot as they waded across the water."

He said the attackers had targeted 58 Division troops deployed closer to a point held by Brigadier Prasanna Silva’s 55 Division directing operations south of Chalai on the north-eastern coast.

The second major confrontation erupted north of Puthukudiruppu in the Iranapalai area as the 58 Division stepped up pressure on LTTE intelligence wing chief Pottu Amman now struggling to thwart further advances by the troops.

The army said that the fighting formations had paid a heavy price over the last two and half years to bring the Tigers down to their knees.

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