Second Battle of Elephant Pass

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Second Battle of Elephant Pass
Part of the Sri Lankan civil war
Operation Unceasing Waves III
Date 22–23 April 2000
Location Elephant Pass, Sri Lanka
Result Tamil Tiger victory
Belligerents
Emblem of Sri Lanka.svg Military of Sri Lanka Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
Commanders and leaders
Srilal Wijesooriya Velupillai Prabhakaran[citation needed]
Balraj
Thillaiyampalam Sivanesan
Karuna Amman
Strength
17,500 1,200
Casualties and losses
204 killed
357 wounded
150 killed

The Second Battle of Elephant Pass[1] (codenamed Operation Unceasing Waves III (ஓயாத அலைகள் மூன்று)[1] by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam), was a battle fought in April 2000 for the control of the Sri Lankan military base in Elephant Pass, Jaffna.

Background[edit]

See also First Battle of Elephant Pass

In 1991 the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) made their first attempt to take the Elephant Pass base. The attack was a failure, and the Tigers suffered over 1,000 casualties. The Elephant Pass isthmus is of strategic importance, as it links the northern mainland known as Wanni with the Jaffna Peninsula. Both the Jaffna-Kandy road, the A-9 Highway, and the railway line to Jaffna run through Elephant Pass, making the narrow strip of land in a sense the gateway to Jaffna. Elephant Pass was thought to be an impregnable military complex. Before the battle the LTTE seized the southern defences around Elephant Pass and then severed the sea link to the base by capturing the area around Vettilaikerny, and cut the main northern highway, threatening to completely isolate the base.

Battle[edit]

On 22 April 2000, the LTTE attacked the twin complexes of Iyakachchi and Elephant Pass, pounding the government positions. The LTTE's veteran Black Tiger units stormed into the Iyakkachchi military base in the early hours of the morning in a multi-pronged assault and overran the well-fortified camp after several hours of intense fighting. LTTE rebels penetrated the central base, destroying several artillery pieces, tanks, armoured vehicles and ammunition dumps. With the fall of Iyakachchi and the collapse of the command structure of its defending troops, LTTE combat units moved swiftly and stormed into Elephant Pass from different directions. By late evening Army Command decided to evacuate all of its positions in Elephant Pass and ordered a new defensive line further to the North. The LTTE captured three long-range 152 mm artillery pieces, two 122 mm artillery pieces, 12 120 mm heavy mortars, one 25 mm cannon, several .50-caliber machine guns, hundreds of rocket-propelled grenades and thousands of automatic rifles. The Tigers also captured several armoured vehicles, tanks, military trucks, bulldozers and high-tech communication systems. The Battle of Elephant Pass will be remembered as the largest military débacle in the history of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces. In the end 204 soldiers and 150 rebels were killed. Another 357 soldiers were wounded.

Aftermath[edit]

Fighting continued until mid-May for control of the Jaffna peninsula, and by 9 May the Deputy Defence Minister reported that 758 soldiers had been killed, 2,368 had been wounded and 349 were missing since the battle for Elephant Pass started on 22 April. The LTTE pushed towards Jaffna. In the following large-scale battles along defence lines that offered little tactical leverage, the LTTE suffered heavy casualties at the hands of Sri Lankan military forces that were well equipped with heavy artillery and air support. Despite gaining footholds in the areas of Chavekachechri and Ariyalai, the LTTE was forced to retreat to the Muhamalai and Nagarkovil defensive lines after suffering heavy losses from artillery and air strikes. Although the fall of Elephant Pass was seen as a great triumph, various setbacks highlighted the movement's weakness against conventional military forces in regular conflict.

On 3 September 2000 the army mounted a massive counteroffensive, named "Agni Keila", to try to retake some of the LTTE-held territory to the south of its defensive lines, but after advancing a few kilometres the troops met heavy resistance. The army was hampered by the presence of two narrow strips of land over which their forces had to advance. The LTTE had registered all its artillery and mortars onto this area. In addition, its operatives had extensively booby-trapped the strips of land, rendering them extremely dangerous for armoured units. Although the army claimed that it managed to advance well into the LTTE lines, heavy casualties forced a withdrawal to its original positions.

In 2006 fighting renewed for control of the Jaffna peninsula. Sri Lankan troops and Tamil Tiger rebels fought pitched battles for control of the peninsula, which left hundreds dead in a matter of months. In a major offensive launched by the Sri Lanka Armed Forces, Elephant Pass was recaptured on 9 January 2009.[2]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The taking of Elephant Pass". HinduOnNet. 10 May 2000. Retrieved 10 January 2009. 
  2. ^ "Army 'takes key Sri Lanka pass'". BBC. 9 January 2009. Retrieved 10 January 2009. 

Coordinates: 9°32′50″N 80°24′32″E / 9.54726°N 80.408936°E / 9.54726; 80.408936