Operation Jayasikurui

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Operation Jayasikurui
Part of the Sri Lankan civil war
Date13 May 1997 – 1999[1]
Location
Result LTTE victory
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. Initially, the Sri Lankan military experienced success by forcing the LTTE out of Killinochchi, capturing vast areas, however the LTTE managed to launch a brutal counter-attack which reversed all gains made by the government. After failing to achieve their original objective, the Sri Lankan Army called off its operation.

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 the 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 re-establish a base due to the lack of a land supply route to it. Instead, at the request of the deputy minister of defence, Gen. 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 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 it 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 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]

he LTTE also staged a number of counterattacks against SLA positions throughout the campaign. One 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]

The operation nevertheless did not manage to accomplish even half of its objectives. By mid-May 1998 it had completely stalled. The LTTE didn't show any resistance initially, but at Puliyankulam, LTTE troops led by Brig.Theepan showed huge resistance and blocked the Army at Puliyankulam for more than 4 months. TTE 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 suffering hundreds of casualties and 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. With stiff resistance in place, the Army by-passed Puliyankulam and secretly moved through jungles and reached another village called Kanagarayankulam, hoping to bypass the defending LTTE force, but Theepan had managed to hold off the Army's advance in this area as well.

Unable to break LTTE defense lines, the SLA decided to open the battle on multiple fronts. As the fight continues, the defense lines become very long, stretching from Nay-Aaru all the way to Mannar. The fighting would continue on for several months but the critical A9 highway (between Mankulam and Kilinochchi) Highway remained firmly in LTTE hands. In 1998, the SLA moved some of its forces from Killinochchi towards the south, leaving the entire district vulnerable. On September 1998, the LTTE launched its "Operation Unceasing Waves II", resulting in the capture of the entire Kilinochchi district. Brutal fighting continued on the A9 highway LTTE admitted to losing some 1,300 fighters in the defence of the" road.[2]

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, which also claimed to have captured a 122mm artillery piece (bringing 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 fighters and wounded 1,899 during the operation.[1]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Sri Lanka Army
Pro-rebel