Over 800 mortars and artillery pieces among
LTTE arsenal recovered


by Shamindra Ferdinando

Among the armaments recovered by the Army during the war and ongoing clearing operations in the Northern and Eastern Provinces are 15 artillery pieces and 805 mortars of different types. The artillery pieces comprised six 152 mm and nine 130 mm artillery all of Chinese origin.

The recovered mortars included six 122 mm, fifty seven 120 mm, two 85 mm, thirty eight 82 mm, one hundred and forty seven 81 mm, four hundred eighty seven 60 mm and 65 commando mortars.

Troops also recovered three six-barreled MBRL (multi barrel rocket launchers), 14 recoilless weapons and a range of other arms, ammunition and equipment acquired by the LTTE over the years.

Intelligence sources told The Island that the LTTE had smuggled in bulk of the armaments since February 2002 from different sources with most items including artillery and mortars being of the Chinese origin.

Testifying before the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) recently Defence Secretary Gotabhaya  Rajapaksa said that those who talked about loss of civilian life had never discussed the LTTE firepower, which claimed the lives over 6,000 officers and men and wounded about 30,000.

Sixteen months after the conclusion of the war, security forces are still recovering small quantities of ammunition and explosives in the Vanni region with occasional recoveries in the East.

Responding to a query by The Island, an authoritative military official said that among the recovered items, there could be some belonging to the Army, including artillery, mortars, armoured fighting vehicles and armoured personnel carriers which had been seized by the LTTE years back.

Sources said that the Army during the Vanni campaign had recovered most of the heavy weapons in areas east of the A9 road in the last five months of the campaign. The LTTE collapsed on May 19 last year on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon.

The capture of ‘KP’ in August 2009 helped the Sri Lankan intelligence to obtain some hitherto unknown information regarding the LTTE procurement network.

According to Army Headquarters among the armaments recovered are 21 surface-to-air missiles, 55 thermobaric weapons, 253 40mm grenade launchers, 14 missile launchers, seven 23 mm cannon, ninety six 12.7 mm weapons, 273 multipurpose machine guns, 14,232 T 56 assault rifles, 103 AK 47s, 63 M-16 rifles, 34 sniper weapons, 441 9mm pistols, 167 micro pistols, 25 14.5 mm mobile anti-aircraft guns, eight missiles other than Russian manufactured surface to air missiles, two T-55 main battle tanks, 3,964 rounds of 152mm, 130 mm, 122 mm and 120 mm, 1143 aircraft bombs, 7069 claymore mines, 35,315 hand grenades, , 61,788 non electrical detonators and 4517 improvised explosive devices.

Sources said that the LTTE arsenal could have been easily one of the largest maintained by a non state actor and its overseas supply network couldn’t have been second to any other.

Commenting on explosives, arms and ammunition used by LTTE units involved in clandestine and intelligence operations, sources said that troops had recovered 377 suicide kits along with 167 micro pistols, 6,265 kgs of C4 explosives, 42,188 kgs of TNT explosives, 3,186 kgs of gelignite, 40 suicide belts and a range of other items, including 1368 kgs of TNT slabs Sources said that those, who had been tasked with special operations, had the wherewithal to take military, economic and political targets. Troops also recovered 21 small arms (two pistols and 19 guns) equipped with silencers.

A Navy intelligence official told The Island that the amount of explosives brought into the country was astonishing. The LTTE had arms and ammunition to continue attacks, particularly clandestine operations, though it had given up immediately after the Army finished off the LTTE leadership in May last year. Sources pointed out that the amount steel and iron balls recovered was evidence of their plans to make explosive devices to wreak havoc.

Military sources said that large stocks of explosives had been secured from various Indian suppliers.

Sources said that 20 suicide craft, 13 damaged Sea Tiger crat, 228 outboard motors and 11 Israeli miniuzi guns were among altogether 279 items categorized by the Army.

Eight ‘floating arsenals’ destroyed in four separate confrontations on the high seas (Sept. 2006-Oct 2007) and capture or destruction of trawlers (Jan 2006-Feb 2007) denied millions of dollars worth arms, ammunition and equipment to the LTTE.

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