Battle of Pooneryn
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|Battle of Pooneryn|
|Part of the Sri Lankan civil war|
|Military of Sri Lanka||Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam|
|Casualties and losses|
|800 killed|
The Battle of Pooneryn was a battle fought on November 11, 1993 for the town of Pooneryn.
Sri lankan Army handed over their positions in the area to Indian Peaece Keeping Force (IPKF) in 1987 and regained them in 1992 in Operations Valampuri 1 and 2. The Poonaryn and Elephant pass Army camps blocked LTTE movements between Wanni and Jaffna, Since the LTTE secretly planned an attack on the Poonaryn Army garrison and the Navy detachment at Nagasivanthurei. November 1993 the Sri Lankan Army 1 Battalion Sri Lanka Light Infantry and 3 Battalion Gajaba Regiment and Sri Lanka Armoured Corps(Including two numbers of T-55 Main battle tanks) were stationed at the Base.
On November 11, around 2:00 a.m., the LTTE launched a massive attack from land and the lagoon, simultaneously engaging the Nagathevanthurai naval base and the army defense lines in Pooneryn. The SLA troops were taken by surprise because they didn't expect the Tigers to come over the lagoon. It is now believed that, prior to the attack, the LTTE had managed to infiltrate a commando group through the Forward Defense Lines, with the mission of overrunning the gun armor positions. Heavy anti-aircraft fire was used by the Tigers to prevent any air support for the SLAF, one air craft was damaged due to anti air craft fire but the pilot managed to land the air craft at Palali Air base. Sri Lankan soldiers were so surprised by the attack that no organized resistance really existed. Most of the troops fighting back formed independent groups that broke down into even smaller groups as the battle progressed and in the end it was every man for himself. The SLA soldiers were fighting for their very lives. However, there were instances of bravery on the SLA side. One example is 2nd Lt. K.W.T. Nissanka, a platoon commander. He sacrificed his life to enable his troops to withdraw with their wounded. As his soldiers were withdrawing from their bunkers he removed the pins on two grenades and ran towards the enemy; the grenades exploded, killing him and the attacking Tigers instantly. By dawn the next day large parts of the base were overrun,the armory and the Battle tanks were taken by the Tigers, although some army units still managed to hold out in bunkers along the shore. The Army units lost contact with Northern Province GHQ but finally managed to contact the Army garrison at Elephant Pass. On 14 November remaining Army units at Pooneryn received reinforcements from near by Army bases, at Mandathivu and regained the lost territory. The Army Commander Cecil Waidyaratne and the Northern area commander Rohan Daluwatte visited the base on 15 November 1993.
As a result of the attack, the Nagathevanthurai naval base was overrun and all craft were destroyed or taken over by the LTTE. The Tigers captured several naval gunboats, heavy mortars and two T-55 Main Battle tanks, though one was later destroyed in an air attack. Large quantities of other arms and ammunition were also taken. The Sri Lankan military alleged that 200 soldiers were captured by the Tigers and then executed. Another 241 soldiers, including eight officers, were killed in the fighting itself. The LTTE lost nearly 800 fighters killed.
Mid 1996 Sri Lankan Military successfully vacated Poonaryn due to tactical reasons. There after the LTTE used the area to launch attacks on Sri Lankan government controlled area in Jaffna, the Palali Air base was subjected to artillery fire from Poonaryn. In late 2008 the Sri Lanka Army launched a fresh offensive in the north of the island. The units of the Task Force 1 (a.k.a. 58 Division) recaptured Pooneryn area on 15 November 2008.