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Huge arms cache recovered in Vaharai

The LTTE leaves behind a huge cache of arms, including two 152 mm artillery guns, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Jan 23, 2007 15:14 IST

The retreating LTTE cadres left behind a huge cache of arms, including two partially damaged 152 mm heavy artillery guns, in Vaharai in Eastern Sri Lanka last week.

"This is the first time 152 mm guns have been captured. Earlier, we had destroyed such guns," the Sri Lankan Army spokesman Brig Prasad Samarasinghe told Hindustan Times on Tuesday.

The retreating Tigers had blown off the barrels of the guns with grenades, but it was possible to render the guns serviceable again, Samarasinghe felt.

According to a long time watcher of the Sri Lankan war, the 152 mm guns the Army is now talking about, are the ones which the LTTE itself had captured from the army in 1999 during the latter's ambitious campaign to take the Vavuniya-Jaffna highway - the A9.

The 152 mm gun does not have a very long range, but it can cause a lot of destruction.

Other arms and ammo captured by the Army in Vaharai included two damaged 122 mm medium artillery guns; 867 Anti-Personnel Mines; Seven Rocket Propelled Grenade Launchers; 60 RPG bombs; 50 kg of TNT; Ninety three 60 mm mortar bombs; 25 Claymore Mines; 3 Anti-Tank Mines; Two 12.7 anti-aircraft machine guns, one 40 mm grenade launcher; 2 "Bangalore Torpedoes" (to clear minefields) and 2 suicide bomber jackets.

LTTE taken by surprise

The LTTE knew that the Sri Lankan Army was planning an offensive against Vaharai, and had declared that it was ready to face it.

And yet, it was taken by surprise when the attack actually took place.

Infiltration by the Sri Lankan Special Forces from the coastal side, and a multi-pronged advance of the regular forces supported by land, sea and air bombardment, caught the LTTE on the wrong foot.

Hemmed in on all sides, it had no option but to minimise its losses and slip out of the area, which it did.

"Fortunately, the LTTE fled. I say fortunately, because if it had stayed put and fought, the loss of lives would have been heavy on both sides," said the Defence Spokesman, Keheliya Rambukwella.

He criticised the ICRC for saying that the general hospital in Vaharai was damaged in Army shelling and that thousands of civilians who had taken shelter there, had fled.

The hospital had suffered no damage, Rambukwella said, and added that it was wrong on the part of a reputable international organisation like the ICRC to have made these charges.