Battle of Thoppigala

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Battle of Thoppigala
Part of the Sri Lankan Civil War
Date 25 April – 11 July 2007
Location Thoppigala, Sri Lanka
Result Sri Lankan Army victory
Belligerents
Emblem of Sri Lanka.svg Military of Sri Lanka Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
Commanders and leaders
Maj Gen Parakrama Pannipitiya Swarnam / Ramesh
Strength
around 1,200 around 1,000
Casualties and losses
48 killed (according to Sri Lankan Army)[citation needed] 700–800 killed (according to Sri Lankan Army claims)[citation needed]

The Battle of Thoppigala was a battle between the Sri Lanka Army and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) fought during a period of the first half of 2007 over control of the LTTE-dominated peak of Thoppigala (also known as Baron's Cap), located 40 km northwest of Batticaloa, in eastern Sri Lanka.

Background[edit]

Thoppigala, also known as Baron's Cap and Kudumbimalai, is a large rock standing at 1,753 feet (534 m) above sea level. The rock is surrounded by thick jungle and rocky terrain,[1] and has a number of natural caves.[2] When the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) was active in the country during the period of 1987–1990, they had carried out operations in the Thoppigala area to find LTTE cadres hiding there. However, General A.S. Kalkat, the then commander of the IPKF, later said that they had made no attempt to capture the area since it had been of no military significance to them.[3]

During 1993, the Sri Lankan military conducted operations in the East to evict the LTTE from the region. Military bases were established in and around Thoppigala during these operations.[4]

With the start of Eelam War IV, the Sri Lankan military started a campaign to capture the Eastern Province from the LTTE. The Sri Lanka Army captured the town of Sampur and surrounding areas on 3 September 2006,[5] followed by the capture of Vakarai on 19 January 2007.[6] The Police Special Task Force launched an operation code named "Definite Victory,[6][7] through which the Sri Lankan military captured several LTTE bases.[8] The LTTE was eventually restricted to the Thoppigala area, which had become its last stronghold in the Eastern Province,[9] by 11 April 2007.[10] One of the largest LTTE bases in the eastern province was located in the Thoppigala area.[1]

Preparations[edit]

On 27 February 2007, the LTTE launched an artillery attack on Batticaloa targeting two helicopters carrying foreign diplomats. The ambassadors of the United States, Italy and Germany were injured in this incident.[11] The LTTE later announced that they were not aware of the diplomats arriving at Batticaloa, and accused the government of not informing them. The LTTE also accused that the Sri Lankan military had used the targeted location to launch provocative artillery attacks earlier on the same day. In response to this, a government spokesman said that "Everyone knew that foreign diplomats were visiting the area today".[12] The Sri Lanka Air Force later bombed the Thoppigala area, which the military said was used to organize the attacks.[13]

Thoppigala was isolated and cut off from reinforcements after the Sri Lanka Army captured several LTTE bases around it.[14] The army captured the Unnachchi tank, LTTE bases at Vavunathivu and Kohombagasthalawa, 33 kilometres (21 mi) of the A5 road and the road leading to Thoppigala by 11 April 2007.[15]

The Sri Lanka Army announced that they had launched a military operation to capture Thoppigala on 14 April 2007.[16] LRRP units from the Army Commando Regiment were used extensively in this operation, making it the first operation in the civil war where such deep penetration units were used in a large scale. Four eight member teams from the Zulu Company of the 3 Commando Regiment were deployed to eliminate LTTE leaders and disrupt supplies and communications.[17]

The SLA estimated around 1,000 LTTE cadres were fighting in the area in a network of trenches and tunnels.

During the period of 8–9 June 2007, Sri Lankan army captured 4 LTTE military bases at Ibbanvila, Akkarathivu (Egodadoova), Mawadi-ode (Mahavaedi-oda), and Veppanveli (Kohomba-vaella) in Pankudavaella North, and Naarakmulla, South of the Thoppigala area. During the confrontation, around 30 LTTE cadres and 1 SLA personnel died. The SLA captured 6 Multi Purpose Machine Guns (MPMG), 21 T-56 assault riffles, 4 Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) launchers, and a large quantity of Anti Personnel (AP) mines and Ammunitions.

On 19 June 2007, 3 LTTE satellite camps East of Narakkamulla in the Thoppigala area were completely destroyed by the SLA. As per military sources around 25-30 LTTE were killed and a large quantity of anti-personnel mines (APM's) and other military quipment were captured.

Battle[edit]

Fierce fighting erupted between the LTTE and the SLA at the final forward defence line (FDL) of LTTE, at their Beirut complex in Narakamulla, Thoppigala area between 22–24 June 2007. The FDL was fortified with 6 bunker lines and 3 minor camps. The LTTE did not vacate their positions due to SLA's heavy barrage of artillery and tank gun fire. Finally, around 50 SLA commando's infiltrated the LTTE bunkers and killed 30 of them. Three LTTE cadres committed suicide. This series of events turned the tide of the battle of Thoppogala against the LTTE.[18]

The fierce battle North of Narakamulla, in the Thoppigala area on 6 July 2007 morning, killed 6 Sri Lankan army personnel including an officer called Colonel Samantha Ranathunga, and injured 7, due to heavy mortar fire by the LTTE. The Sri Lankan military retaliated with artillery and aerial bombardment to control the situation.[19]

After 13 years, the Sri Lankan military captured the final stronghold of LTTE in the East, Thoppigala (Baron's Cap), on the morning of 11 July 2007, nearly after a year of military action. According to the country's military history, the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF), with around 20,000 soldiers attacked this area in the year 1988 but failed to capture the area (at that time LTTE was led by Colonel Karuna). In 1994 the SLA withdrew their military bases from this area.[20]

Aftermath[edit]

The entire Eastern Province was captured by the Sri Lankan military following the capture of Thoppigala.[21] The military launched a campaign with focusing on the aim of capturing the Northern Province after the Eastern Province was captured.[22]

Demining operations were carried out with the aid of foreign governments and Non-governmental organizations, and are currently in their final phases.[23]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Aditi Phadnis (24 January 2009). "Guerilla in retreat". Business Standard. Retrieved 12 February 2009. 
  2. ^ Salgado, Upali (8 July 2007). "Thoppigala: A land of many wonders". The Sunday Times. Archived from the original on 6 January 2009. Retrieved 7 February 2009. 
  3. ^ Noyahr, Keith (29 July 2007). "Peace accord did not fail : Gen. Kalkat". The Nation. Retrieved 10 February 2009. 
  4. ^ Handunnetti, Dilrukshi (19 August 2007). "Human rights violations are unacceptable". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 14 February 2009. 
  5. ^ "Sri Lankan military captures key rebel territory, Tigers vow to keep fighting". The Associated Press (International Herald Tribune). 3 September 2006. Retrieved 6 February 2009. 
  6. ^ a b "Government forces take Vakarai". BBC News. 19 January 2007. Retrieved 6 February 2009. 
  7. ^ "Two more LTTE camps fall to STF - Kangikadaichi Aru". Ministry of Defence of Sri Lanka. 2 February 2007. Retrieved 6 February 2009. 
  8. ^ "Sri Lankan military says rebels' torture chambers found, rebels deny". The Associated Press (International Herald Tribune). 15 January 2007. Retrieved 6 February 2009. 
  9. ^ Senpathi (7 January 2007). "Eelam War IV: Act Two". The Nation. Retrieved 6 February 2009. 
  10. ^ Wijayapala, Ranil (13 April 2007). "Hope-filled New Year dawns for Eastern residents freed from LTTE tyranny". Daily News. Retrieved 7 February 2009. 
  11. ^ "US, Italian, German envoys hurt in LTTE attack". Reuters (The Tribune). 27 February 2007. Retrieved 14 February 2009. 
  12. ^ "German, Italian and US ambassadors injured in Sri Lanka". AFP (Taipei Times). 28 February 2007. Retrieved 14 February 2009. 
  13. ^ Jayasinghe, Amal (28 February 2007). "Ambassadors injured in Sri Lanka shelling". AFP (The China Post). Retrieved 14 February 2009. 
  14. ^ Hariharan, R (3 April 2007). "Sri Lanka: Looking beyond consolidation". South Asia Analysis Group. Retrieved 15 February 2009. 
  15. ^ "Corporal Nuwan Tharanga: Fallen Hero At Thoppigala". Sunday Observer. 16 March 2008. Retrieved 15 February 2009. 
  16. ^ "Thoppigala Final Operation". Sri Lanka Army. 12 July 2007. Archived from the original on 24 February 2009. Retrieved 9 February 2009. [dead link]
  17. ^ Fernando, Santhush (22 July 2007). "How Thoppigala fell like nine pins". The Nation. Archived from the original on 2 January 2009. Retrieved 15 February 2009. 
  18. ^ "Sri Lanka says 33 Tigers die in battle". Reuters. 9 June 2007. Retrieved 9 June 2007. 
  19. ^ "Six Sri Lankan troops are killed". BBC News. 6 July 2007. Archived from the original on 20 August 2007. Retrieved 6 July 2007. 
  20. ^ "Sri Lanka declares fall of rebel east, Tigers defiant". Reuters. 11 July 2007. Retrieved 11 July 2007. 
  21. ^ Wijayapala, Ranil (11 October 2008). "Sri Lanka Army: 59 years of valour, commitment and sacrifice". The Daily News. Retrieved 10 February 2009. 
  22. ^ Perera, Amantha (23 September 2007). "Defensive Tigers warn of lethal days". The Sunday Leader. Retrieved 10 February 2009. 
  23. ^ Bandara, Kelum (29 January 2009). "De-mining to begin in North". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 12 February 2009. [dead link]