Battle-scarred houses, empty schools, a soundless communication facility and a three-storied luxury villa apparently belonging to LTTE chief V Prabhakaran — fading signatures that soldiers found of the parallel government run by the rebels from Kilinochchi for a decade.
In the last 24 hours, however, LTTE cadres were the only ones running from the dead, deserted town, retreating east towards the thick jungles of Mullaitivu.
But a bomb blast in Pettah, Colombo’s commercial nerve centre, on Saturday afternoon left residents wary of retaliatory attacks in cities. The blast left two seriously injured.
The guns in Kilinochchi however have fallen silent.
“There is no more fighting in the town. The Sri Lankan army (SLA) soldiers are now fighting the LTTE in the east. Inside Kilinochchi, cleaning up operations are on,” military spokesperson, Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara told HT. Casualty figures continued to be hazy though.
Of course, it is not as if that the soldiers now have the entire town to themselves — before leaving, the rebels had carefully planted deadly mines beneath the empty streets. “Many mines were planted (in Kilinochchi). Soldiers are moving along on restrict routes, which were cleared of mines. It is a problem and might take a few days (to defuse each mine),” he said.
The SLA is also setting up camps in and around the town to ensure that it stays under its control. “Every place we have liberated like Pooneryn and Mannar, camps were set up and troops stationed to protect the territory,” Nanayakkara said.
It will hardly be an easy job. As the armed forces capture more territory, its personnel are also being spread thin. In fact, the army has stepped up its recruiting drive in the last week with the public being exhorted to join as a “special force soldier” and as a “commando soldier”.
Meanwhile, the armed forces have also intensified its attacks against the LTTE in its remaining stronghold, Mullaitivu district. Sri Lankan air force (SLAF) carried out strikes at LTTE’s main sea tiger base located in the coastal stretch of the Mullaitivu lagoon on Saturday.