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SL sinks 11 Tiger boats in sea battle

The Sri Lankan Navy, supported by the Air Force, has thus re-affirmed its dominance over the North Eastern sea, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Sep 25, 2006 19:41 IST

The Sri Lanka Navy, supported by the Air Force, re-affirmed its dominance over the North Eastern sea on Sunday when it destroyed 11 "Sea Tiger" boats off Pulmoddai in Trincomalee district.

It was when the Sri Lankan Navy was on routine patrol off Alampil in the LTTE-held Mullaitivu district, that it spotted 25 LTTE boats with about 70 cadres on board, heading for a southern destination.

At 9.45 pm, the Navy moved closer to the LTTE vessels and ordered them to stop.

But when they did not, fighting broke out in which nine LTTE craft were sunk, two were set ablaze, and five were damaged, the Defence Ministry said.

The Air Force provided valuable reconnaissance and diverted the attention of the enemy.

The Navy believes that the LTTE was on a mission to bring combatants to beef up its beleaguered units in Sampur, Verugal and Vaharai in the Trincomalee-Batticaloa area.

Navy's string of successes

The Sri Lankan Navy, ably supported by the Air Force, has convincingly established its dominance over the North Eastern sea through a series of successes.

On September 16, the navy and the air force destroyed a LTTE vessel believed to be carrying a huge quantity of missiles and artillery shells, 120 nautical miles off Kalmunai in South Eastern Sri Lanka.

If the LTTE vessel had landed as planned, the missiles would have ended the Sri Lankan Air Force's command over the North Eastern skies, and seriously affected the morale of the ground troops, which is currently very high.

In early August, the Navy had foiled an attempt by Sea Tiger suicide boats to intercept the Sri Lankan vessel "Jetliner", carrying 1, 600 troops, at the mouth of the Trincomalee harbour.

The Tigers' mission failed despite consistent artillery support from Sampur across the Koddiyar Bay.

On May 11, Sea Tiger suicide boats had tried to sink "Pearl Cruise" carrying 700 troops going on leave, off Point Pedro in Jaffna. But the navy foiled the attempt.

Sailing without ICRC escort

When food, civilians and relief material had to be ferried between Colombo/Trincomalee and beleaguered Jaffna, the LTTE said that it would not allow the government to use the sea route and demanded that the land route (the A9 Highway passing through territory held by it) be opened.

But the government rejected the LTTE's demand and continued to ferry men and material by sea, even after the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had declined to provide escort in the absence of a guarantee of safety from the LTTE.

The LTTE had wanted the land route to be used because it felt that it could keep a watch on what was being transported, to see if arms and military personnel were being transported along with civilians and non-lethal cargo.

But the government opted to clear the sea, and use it transport not only troops and munitions but civilians and civilian supplies.

Fortunately, the Navy (aided by the Air Force) had established dominance over the North Eastern sea "up to 95%" as a long time military correspondent put it.

So far, the chartered vessel "Jetliner" has successfully transported military personnel and civilians between Trincomalee and Kankesanthurai in Jaffna, escorted, not by the ICRC, but by naval gunboats.

Asked what made such dominance possible, a seasoned military correspondent said that the key ingredient of the success story was "high morale" generated by the success of the Mavil Aaru operation in late July-early August.

If the government forces had failed to drive the LTTE out of Mavil Aaru, they could not have taken Mutur and Sampur and driven the LTTE out of Muhamalai and Kayts in the Jaffna peninsula.

Mavil Aaru had given all the three services a badly needed shot in the arm.

First Published: Sep 25, 2006 11:36 IST