With the darkness they emerged. The mortars, taking their maximum range attacking the LTTE hide outs. The silence was disturbed by the military trucks transporting troops from the jungles and thundering explosions of mortars and artilleries. While yet another LTTE stronghold was about to fall, the eight-man team led by Captain Janaka Haloluwa ‘majestically’ walked to their camp after concluding a mission – advancing further from the newly captured Akkarayan village.
Arriving after a two-day mission, pride was written on the faces of these young men in their 20’s. Captain Haloluwe is a young military leader worth penning down a few words about. Believe it, he came back to the battle front from the hospital bed where he was asked to rest for over three months to adjust his left arm which was dislocated from the shoulder due to an accident. When his team lost the command as their officer was injured while they were marching to capture the bund and LTTE bunkers in Akkarayankulam, Captain Haloluwe did not let them down and returned to command the battle field.
Still having the plaster wrapped from shoulder to the wrist, he had successfully commanded the group to capture the remaining earth bunds to enter the Akkarayan village.
The LTTE, using their maximum efforts to stop the troops heading towards Kilinochchi, had built up a 30 kilo metre huge earth bund with 21 heavily fortified bunkers from Nachchikuda to Akkarayankulam. The two divisions – 57 and 58 – commanded by Gen. Jagath Dias and Brigadier Shavendra Silva respectively were able to penetrate through the earth bund. While 25 kilo metres were cleared by the 58 division, the remaining five kilometres of the bund was captured by the troops of the 57 division, which fought a fierce battle to capture the entire Akkarayankulam area.
We were in Akkarayankulam, the day (November 6) the whole territory fell into the hands of the 571 Brigade troops, which engaged in fierce fighting for over three consecutive days. Akkarayankulam was an LTTE stronghold in the west flank of A-9.
The task of capturing the Akkarayan village and the tank was undertaken by the 571 Brigade led by Col. G.V. Ravipriya. Last October 19, the troops of the 12 Sinha regiment and 9 Gemunu Regiment captured Akkarayankulam Tank destroying 19 bunkers.
“We were confident that we could destroy these three bunkers. The LTTE also gave good resistance and the bunkers were heavily mined. After RPG attack, we surrounded the bunkers and captured the whole areas.
The LTTE cadres managed to escape to the jungle carrying their cadres. We found six dead bodies”, Sgt Namal Bandara recalled the day his team entered the village. He was one of the happiest soldiers as he was rewarded with a promotion for his share in capturing the village.
Thirty-one year old Sgt. Bandara, a Lance Corporal a few days ago, said that soldiers were confident that they could liberate Kilinochchi and every soldier wanted to be a part of that mission. He said that he went 50 metres near bunkers and the LTTE cadres confronted him, but he was able to destroy the bunkers while some of the LTTE cadres disappeared into the jungle.
Rohitha Kumara (21) still bearing the heavy ammunition belt hanging around his neck, said that though he joined the Army 10-months back he was not afraid to step into enemy fronts as they were properly trained and guided.
“We were able to destroy LTTE bunkers six times and the LTTE ran away abandoning their weapons and radio sets. Among the recoveries are a MPMG and seven T 56 guns.” We fought from six in the morning till late evening to destroy these bunkers”, he said.
The eight-man team and its leader was greeted by Col. Ravipriya and commended for their contribution towards the success.
Like drops of rain makes the mighty ocean, small acts of a commanding officer will lead to a good outcome. Observing Col. Ravipriya will tell the story. While he was accompanying us to the Akkarayan town, suddenly he stopped near a soldier who was walking carrying his heavy back pack. Col. Ravipriya stopped for a moment. ” Putha kohetada Yanne”, he asked.
The young soldier answered where and Col. Ravipriya asked the soldier to get into his vehicle. As he could not believe his ears, the soldier dropped his helmet and even the weapon before he got into the vehicle.
The fragrance of soap emanated from the environment, amidst the dusty wind. A group of soldiers were walking freshly after a good bath after completing the days mission. Col. Ravipriya slowed the vehicle speedily plying the gravel road leading to Akkarayan town.
” After a bath soldiers are happy”, he said nodding his head and smiling with them. The soldiers escaped a thick layer of dust.
He did not forget to smile to each and every soldier that he meet during our journey to Akkarayan town. No doubt, these small appreciations would bring remarkable successes. Not only Col. Ravipriya, there are lot of officers now in the military who know the heart beat of their own soldiers.
The Akkarayan Town is a built -up area with a base hospital with twelve wards including maternity ward and a ward for children, two schools, sub post office, teachers quarters and a bazaar.
It is estimated that nearly 4,000 people were living in this town, but the civilians had vacated their homes four months before.
The Akkarayankulam Maha Vidyalaya, which has a good science laboratory, is proof that the students sat for the Advanced Levels. The government text books and science kits were destroyed by the LTTE and they have taken the furniture including desks and chairs in the class rooms. The map of Sri Lanka in front of the main office clearly demarcated the territory of the Eelam.
The next wall was decorated with the LTTE flower ‘Niyagala’ (flower carries the same poison as cyanide) and pictures of dead LTTE cadres. The pro-LTTE slogans to motivate schoolchildren were fine proof that the LTTE was still recruiting underaged children. The children were forced to worship the LTTE as a daily ritual.
The Akkarayankulam Base Hospital premises was damaged and drugs were strewn all over the wards. The huge water tank that supplies water to the hospital has escaped damage, but most of the other state buildings were vandalized by the fleeing LTTE cadres. Except for the LTTE, no civilians were living in the village as they were forced to evacuate their homes a few months back with the signs that the security forces were nearing Akkarayankulam.” The Akkrayan village is a built-up area and the troops faced difficulty in capturing the area.
The soldiers were so confident that they could capture the whole of Akkarayankulam after crossing the earth bund. We had to delay the mission and for four days we could not move further as they had a good resistance as they were taking the cover-up of the earth bund”, recalled Col. Ravipriya. According to the 571 Commanding Officer, the soldiers were not given even a half a days break as their intention was to attack the terrorists continuously. ” We got the advantage of the speed of our mission. Without even resting, the troops moved ahead from October 18 until the entire earth bund stretching five kilo metres was captured on October 21″, he said.
After crossing the bund in the south of the village, the troops stepped onto the main Akkarayankulam road leading to the village. Akkarayankulam, stretching to seven km, is the last village before Kilinochchi, which is less than seven kilometres away from the Tiger headquarters.
Under the command of Lt. Col. Chandana Somaweera of the 9 Gajaba Regiment and Lt. Col. Indrajith Bandara of the 12 Sinha regiment troops entered the village after heavy fighting with the LTTE attacking the troops taking the cover of the buildings.
According to sources, over 30 LTTE cadres and seven soldiers were killed during the mission of capturing the LTTE’s last defence line to stall troops advancing into Kilinochchi.
The troops now advancing towards Akkarayankulam are confident that they could capture Kilinochchi soon.
What we saw was that the morale of the soldiers were high as they know the military offensives were going ahead according to a schedule and the government is centred on truly to destroying the LTTE.
The soldiers we talked to were willing to sacrifice their lives to see an end to the war to liberate the North. They all wanted to be a part of the mission and to see a day peace doves fly over the Northern skies.