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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam  > Tamil Armed Resistance > Reports of Armed Conflict > Operation Unceasing Waves: The Mullaitivu Battle.

REPORTS ON ARMED CONFLICT IN TAMIL EELAM

Operation Unceasing Waves: The Mullaitivu Battle.

18 July  1996


The storming and capturing of the Mullaitivu Sri Lankan Army base was a strategic victory for the Liberation Tigers in several ways. The LTTE attacked the Mullaitivu camp at a time when the Sri Lankan government and press were repeatedly claiming that two thirds of the LTTE's fighting strength had been destroyed in the 'Riviresa' operations. The attack rocked the Sri Lankan military establishment and the military correspondents were left speechless as their predictions were reversed.

The Sri Lankan army base at Mullaitivu covered a vast area and was bordered by the sea on one side. The camp occupied an area 2900m long by 1500 wide with a perimeter of 8500m. It had initially been set up as a smaller camp in the early Eighties. Over subsequent years, the camp was expanded by forcibly taking over the entire town of Mullaitivu, which was the administrative centre of the Mullaitivu district. Indiscriminate artillery fire from the camp had also forced neighboring villages to be evacuated.

The Liberation Tigers launched their assault at 1.30am on the 18 July, 1996. Mr. Velupillai Pirabakaran had been personally involved in the planning and coordination of the operation code named 'Unceasing Waves'. As the LTTE commanders had expected, Sri Lankan relief forces immediately rushed to assist from Vettilaikerni and Trincomalee, the nearby naval bases. They met stiff resistance from Sea Tiger units.

After 8 hours of heavy fighting, the Tiger forces reached the centre of the camp, after overrunning forward defense lines and clusters of mini-camps. The Tiger units then concentrated on attacking the artillery sites and armories. These were captured within an hour of intense fighting.

The attack was paused short of the very heart of the base, which was the operational head quarters of the 6th Battalion, Wijebahu Regiment. The LTTE commanders leading the attack were ordered to regroup their forces and to await nightfall before storming the central camp.

In the meantime, the Sri Lankans dispatched a few hundred troops in a rescue operation code named 'Thrivida Pahara'. The troops were airlifted into Alampil, an area close to the Mullaitivu base. This effectively forced the Tiger forces to fight on two fronts.

The Tiger units launched a holding attack on the relief force and concentrated on the central camp. In the evening of July 18, the entire camp fell to the Tiger forces. At the same time, the Sri Lankan relief force was surrounded by Tiger Special Forces units.

The Sri Lankans continued to attempt to land more troops to bolster their relief force commandos. Fresh troops were airlifted by helicopter into Alampil. On the evening of 19 July, a Sri Lankan naval craft, the 'Ranaviru' which arrived to establish a supply line, was attacked by Sea Tigers off the Mullaitivu coast. The vessel was sunk along with it's entire 40-man crew.

On 20 July, an Mi-17 type helicopter was severely damaged by Tiger fire. The Sri Lankan's relief mission ground to a standstill. The Sri Lankan military command changed their strategy, launching an all out air assault, using Israeli made Kfir and Argentinean Puccara aircraft.

While these aircraft bombed the surrounding area, the Sri Lankan navy's Israeli made Dvora fast attack craft attempted to establish a supply line to the relief force. After meeting heavy resistance from Sea Tiger units and Tiger anti-aircraft troops, the Sri Lankans were forced to call off their attempts, after landing only a few more troops.

Even though the LTTE managed to prevent the enemy from landing more troops on 22 and 23 July, the Sri Lankan military brought in a more troops by sea on 25 July. When these relief units realised the intensity of Tiger resistance and the severity of the situation on the ground, they linked up with the original relief force and withdrew. This concluded the battle.

During this successful engagement, the LTTE lost 332 fighters whilst the Sri Lankan army lost at least 1200 troops including some senior officers. The Sri Lankans also lost 100 troops from the relief force. The entire armoury of the Mullaitivu camp, including 120mm artillery was captured intact.

The entire Mullaitivu district came under LTTE control.

Courtesy: Viduthalai Puligal

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