Operation Jayasikurui

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Operation Jayasikurui
Part of the Sri Lankan civil war
Date 13 May 1997 – 1999[1]
Location Sri Lanka
Result Sri Lankan military successful victory. LTTE lost their main strongholds, including Kilinochchi.
Belligerents
Sri Lanka Military of Sri Lanka Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
Commanders and leaders
Sri Lanka Chandrika Kumaratunga Velupillai Prabhakaran
Strength
5 divisions[1] Unknown
Casualties and losses
1,350 killed; 4,000 wounded (SLA claim)
3,000+ killed (LTTE claim)[2]
3,614 killed; 1,899 wounded (SLA claim)[1]
1,500 killed (LTTE claim)[2]

Operation Jayasikurui (Certain Victory in Sinhala), was a Sri Lankan military action launched on 13 May 1997; it lasted until it was called off in 1999. The primary objective of this operation was to clear a land route to the government-held Jaffna peninsula (which had no land supply routes) through territory held by the LTTE (or Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, popularly known as the Tamil Tigers), by linking the government-held towns of Vavuniya and Kilinochchi.[1] At the time it was the largest military operation undertaken by the Sri Lankan military.

Background[edit]

Following Operation Riviresa in 1995, the Sri Lankan military gained control over the Jaffna peninsula. The LTTE withdrew to the jungles of the Wanni from where in 1996 they launched an attack on an isolated Sri Lanka Army (SLA) garrison in Mullaitivu. After the Battle of Mullaitivu the LTTE gained control over the Mullaitivu district, since the government did not reestablish a base due to the lack of a land supply route to it. Instead, at the request of the deputy minister of defence, General Anurudha Ratwatte, the military forces began to plan a large scale operation to open a land route to Jaffna.

The battle[edit]

The operation launched on 13 May 1997, with the 53rd division spearheading the offensive along with the 21st, 54th, 55th and 56th Divisions.[1] It was preceded by a massive artillery and aerial bombardment with the SLA breaking out of their fortifications at Vavuniya and Manal Aru and pushing into the LTTE-controlled Vanni.[2]

The stated objective of the operation was to capture the A9 highway, running from Vavuniya to the Jaffna peninsula, thereby allowing the establishment of a main supply route (MSR) to the SLA's isolated Jaffna garrison. It was also meant to engage and draw the LTTE out of its secure jungle bases. The Tigers could then be crippled, if not destroyed, by the SLA's superior firepower. The SLA wanted to diminish the strength of the LTTE by the end of the year so that they had to fight only a low-intensity guerrilla war.[2]

The operation was very ambitious from the start, requiring large numbers of troops for both offensive operations and for the defense of the captured territory. As a result, units of the Sri Lanka Navy and the Sri Lanka Air Force were deployed for ground operations in support of the SLA.[1]

The operation nevertheless did not manage to accomplish even half of its objectives. By mid-May 1998, the operation had completely stalled. The critical A9 (between Mankulam and Kilinochchi) highway remained firmly in LTTE hands. It was planned that the highway would fall swiftly, but it did not. The battle for the A9 was bloody, the LTTE admitted to losing some 1,300 fighters in the defence of the road.[2]

At the beginning of the operation the Tigers used, for the first time in the war, artillery captured from the SLA during the Battle of Mullaitivu. They hit the advancing military columns. When the SLA captured the three initial objectives of Mannakulam, Omanthai and Nedunkerni towns, the operation was already behind schedule.[1] As the two columns from Omanthai and Nedunkerni moved towards Puliyankulam in a pincer movement, the LTTE launched its first major counter-attack. LTTE commandos penetrated deep behind SLA lines to smash a major staging area, destroying vast quantities of supplies and killing dozens of troops.[citation needed] Puliyankulam was meant to be the linking up point for the twin prongs of the SLA assault. However, the LTTE had built very effective defenses at the village and after three months of heavy fighting the SLA had to withdraw after sufferng hundreds of casualties and sustaining dozens of tanks destroyed.[citation needed] The defenders of Puliyankulam had irrevocably delayed the SLA's advance and the operation could no longer be completed on time.[2]

The LTTE also staged a number of counter-attacks against SLA positions throughout the campaign. One such was during June 1997, when the Tigers launched attacks on the SLA-held towns of Thandikulam and Omanthai. A pro-LTTE website claimed that the attacks left 700 SLA soldiers dead and some 1,500 wounded in contrast to only 165 dead rebels.[2]

In addition, the SLA garrison at Mannakulam was also attacked on 4 December 1997. 146 SLA soldiers were killed in the fighting along with an unknown number of LTTE.[3]

Aftermath[edit]

Operation Jayasikurui ended after 19 months in 1999 when it was called off by President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. The operation had failed to achieve its objective of gaining a land route to Jaffna, but had acquired the towns of Mannakulam, Omanthai and Nedunkerni. However, in the process several areas, including the town of Kilinochchi, were lost to the LTTE who also claimed to have captured a 122mm artillery piece (taking its total to five), 81mm and 60mm mortars, machine guns, RPG launchers and assault rifles.[2]

The human cost of the operation was high, with both sides sustaining heavy casualties. The government admitted to losing around 1,350 soldiers since the start of the operation, although some independent western analysts thought that the figure could be as many as 3,000.[2] The SLA claimed to have killed 3,614 LTTE cadres and wounded 1,899 during the operation.[1]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Sri Lanka Army
Pro-rebel