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Lanka war set to shift to North

The coming week may well see the beginning of a fresh round of intense fighting, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Feb 18, 2007 19:55 IST

A fresh round of fierce fighting between Sri Lankan government forces and the LTTE may begin next week, with the focus shifting from the Eastern coast to the Jaffna peninsula in the North of the country. 
   
On Wednesday, the LTTE struck at the headquarters of the Sri Lankan army's  53 Division in Kodigamam in Jaffna district. According to The Sunday Times and The Nation  one soldier was killed, and three officers injured. The army promptly retaliated in both the North and the East.

The peninsula has clearly been heavily infiltrated by the LTTE. Last week, the Army found 690 kg of the deadly C-4 explosive stored in an abandoned house in Ariyalai in a government controlled area. "It  was enough to blow up the whole of  Jaffna," remarked the Sri Lankan defense spokesman, Keheliya Rambukwella.

On Saturday, the LTTE targeted an Army bus with a claymire mine, 300 metres from the District Secretariat in a high security zone in the heart of Jaffna town. 

Stung by the attack on its divisional headquarters, the army retaliated on Friday, with a multipronged counter attack by land and air. Multi-Barrel Rocket Launchers, based in Weli Oya in the East, went into action while the Air Force struck at the LTTE's mortar positions in Palai (south of Jaffna) and a Sea Tiger base in Chenmalai in the eastern district of Mullaitivu. 

Vavuniya, south of Jaffna, has also become a beehive of military activity. The Army is redeploying battle hardened troops from the Vaharai sector in the East to Vavuniya, to put pressure on the LTTE from the southern side.   

That the LTTE has been building up for a long drawn out conventional and guerilla war in the North is evident from the amount of explosives it had stored in Ariyalai.
 
Recent seizures by the Sri Lankan Navy and the Indian Coast Guard in the North Western seas has shown that the LTTE is also smuggling in raw material from Tamil Nadu in a big way for the manufacture of explosives.
 
South India may have become the main source of clandestine procurements for the LTTE, after the A9 highway linking the peninsula with the LTTE-stronghold of Wanni was closed at Muhamalai in mid 2006, and the eastern seas had begun to be dominated by a resurgent Sri Lankan Navy and Air Force.