Fighting with its back to the wall in the Vaharai sector in Eastern Sri Lanka, and desperate to gain international sympathy, the LTTE is destroying civilian bunkers in areas under its control to increase civilian casualties.
The independent Daily Mirror quoted a Tamil refugee, Chandra Mohan, as saying that the LTTE was destroying bunkers built by civilians in their homes.
When Sri Lankan Army shells inflicted casualties as a result of this, the LTTE would come forward to take charge of the injured and hand them over to the International Red Cross or the Scandinavian truce monitors!
Chandra Mohan said that the LTTE was subjecting the Tamil civilians of the area to various kinds of harassment, including pressure to assist them in the fight against the Sri Lankan Armed Forces.
The report quoted a 28 year old refugee as saying that the LTTE had fired at him and his friends as they were fleeing.
"I was unhurt and able to escape, but three others were captured and one was critically injured," the refugee, who did not want to be identified, said.
LTTE restricting civilian outgo
It is significant that the civilians are moving to the government-controlled areas and not to other LTTE-controlled areas.
Anywhere between 23,000 and 28,000 Tamil civilians had fled the Vaharai area in the past few days.
Top military sources told Hindustan Times on Wednesday, that the LTTE had no option but to let the civilians flee in view of the latter's non-cooperation.
But it was restricting the outgo to about 2,000 per day, they added.
The LTTE, they said, was facing a severe manpower shortage, being unable to recruit in the Eastern districts which had traditionally been its recruiting ground.
The defection of the Eastern Commander Karuna had created a major military void in the East which the LTTE was unable to fill.
It had also suffered heavy casualties in the last few months and desperately needed replacement.
LTTE loses 2,000 this year
According to informed Army sources, the LTTE has lost about 2,000 fighting cadres this year alone, and not 818 as it claimed.
They estimate the LTTE's fighting units in the East (from Trincomalee to Amparai) to be about 800 well trained cadres.
In addition, there may be 2,000 auxiliaries and helpers who can wield the gun in an emergency.
The LTTE has been forcibly recruiting young boys and girls, as they did from a tutorial college in Amparai district recently.
But the adverse publicity this got had forced the leadership to let some of them off, saying that they were "underage", though they had joined "willingly".
Rain impedes progress in Vaharai
The capture of Vaharai and Kathirweli is only a matter of time, Army sources say.
But the Army is not in a frightful hurry to capture the objectives, as it is aware of the three obstacles on its path:
• The fighting ability of the LTTE. "They are good fighters," one officer said.
• The pressure the LTTE is putting on the Security Forces on all fronts, not just in the East.
• The weather and the terrain.
The Sri Lankan Air Force is unable to operate under the present cloudy conditions and inclement weather.
The ground forces are impeded by the mud and slush created by the incessant rain.
"Many stretches of land are beyond even tractors," one source said.
Special forces and Karuna play key role
Sri Lankan Special Forces are playing a key role in the operations in the East as they did in the early 1990s.
Small groups of Army men penetrate deep into LTTE-held territory to ambush LTTE cadres.
This time round, Karuna's chosen men, who know the terrain like the back of their palms and can mix with the locals imperceptibly, are also operating in LTTE-held areas.
The LTTE finds it difficult to handle the Karuna factor, Army sources said.
"The LTTE now has to fight in areas under its control also!"