Sixteen soldiers killed as Shadow war escalates in Jaffna
By D. B. S. Jeyaraj
The fourth of December was a bloody Sunday for soldiers serving in Jaffna as
nine of their comrades-at-arms were killed in three separate incidents in the
northern peninsula. Eight soldiers were injured in the same three incidents.
Around 20 other soldiers suffered injuries in a spate of attacks conducted for
three days in Jaffna from December 2 to 4.
The most serious attack was the landmine ambush at Kondavil on Sunday. Ten
soldiers from the 51 - 1 brigade camp near the Thirunelvely farm school were
travelling along the Palaly road to the 55 - 1 brigade camp at Atchuvely.
The vehicle used was a tractor with trailer. The vehicle had passed the Kondavil
junction and proceeded about 150 metres southwards when a claymore mine
concealed on a tree was triggered by a remote controlled device. The explosion
occurred at 1.10 pm in broad daylight.
The driver and two other men seated alongside the mudguards and three others
seated on the front of the trailer were killed instantly. One soldier seated in the
middle of the trailer was seriously injured and later succumbed. Three others
seated at the rear end were injured but survived though the condition of two is
serious. Seven soldiers had been killed in what was the most serious incident
affecting the security forces in 46 months of a ceasefire between the Government
of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
Meanwhile, in an almost identical incident, a minimum of seven Sri Lanka Army
soldiers were killed in a second claymore mine attack on a SLA tractor in Irupalai,
five kilometers north east of Jaffna town yesterday (6) at around 10 a.m. Lt. D.V.
Mutugalage, Corporal B.K.Samarasinghe, Corporal K.A.Sumith Kumara, Privates
K.M.P.Attanayake, K.G.Dayawansa, W.G.I.Wijetunga and H.A.S Udayasiri were the
troopers who died in the claymore attack.
At least one soldier was seriously wounded in the attack. The explosion took place
200 meters west of Irupalai junction on Jaffna - Point Pedro road. At least 10
soldiers belonging to the SLA Division 51-2 were returning to Irupalai camp in their
tractor when it was hit by the claymore mine. They were returning after supplying
morning meals to the soldiers stationed along the streets in Kalviyankadu, as in
the previous incident.
For northern residents of Kondavil and adjacent Thirunelvely or Thinnevely as it is
generally called, it was a bitter sense of deja-vu all over again. It was the usual
practice in the bygone days for soldiers to descend upon the scene of an attack,
surround the area and assault people in the vicinity and also detain them. The
ceasefire had prevented such incidents for years in Jaffna. The bloody Sunday
incident however revived memories as hordes of policemen and soldiers arrived.
They had learnt nothing and forgotten nothing.
After the Sunday attack, people in the area were rounded up and assaulted.
Shopkeepers at Kondavil junction and even Thirunelvely junction were grilled. The
devotees paying pooja to the Aiyappan deity at a temple close to the incident
suffered a lot of harassment. About 30 to 40 people complained of minor injuries
after the assaults. At least 20 people were detained for questioning and were
gradually released. As is usual none of those responsible or related to the attack
If the Kondavil attack was the one with the most exacting toll two other incidents
on the same bloody Sunday also had soldier casualties. A security forces truck
was attacked with explosives near the Manangunap Pillaiyar temple at Nunavil
near Chavakachcheri. One soldier was killed and two injured. This occurred at 5.
30 pm.The assailants fired T - 56 rifles and at least 14 rounds were fired.
Fifteen minutes later at 5.45 pm a security convoy was returning to the camp at
Villumathavaddi in Neervely near the glass factory premises. An attack was
launched from a clump of trees along the Point Pedro road. Grenades were
thrown and then firearms used. the firefight continued intermittently till about 8.
pm. Though a search was conducted after reinforcements arrived none of those
involved in the attack were apprehended. In a re-play of the Kondavil aftermath
on a minor scale people were harassed in a cordon and search operation. One
soldier was killed and three injured in the incident.
The soldiers killed in the three incidents were Sgt. P. R. Ananda, Chandrasiri,
Priyantha, Navaratne, Ruwankumara, Ratnayake and Ekanayake at Kondavil;
Lance Coroporal Jayewardene at Nunavil and private Abeyewardene at Neervely.
The Jaffna people alarmed by the incidents kept indoors during the night and a
‘virtual’ curfew was in place. Residents living in the vicinity of places where
incidents occurred moved to different places for fear of reprisals. there was a
general feeling of apprehension and tension in Jaffna as people feared the worst.
Talk of a full scale war erupting was in the air.
Three other attacks had also been conducted on the same ‘bloody’ Sunday. Two
of these were within the Jaffna municipal limits. Youths on motorcycles had fired
on sentry posts indiscriminately and then fled from the scene. The first was at 9
am on the post near Arasady junction. The second was at 1. 30 pm at Muthirai
Santhi junction. If both were within the Jaffna municipality the third was outside at
Irubalai junction in Kopay. This too was done by youths on motor cycles. There
were no casualties.
The attacks on Sunday were preceded by a series of attacks on December 2 and
3. Though no one was killed, about 20 soldiers sustained injuries. There were a
few injured civilians too. None of those responsible for the attacks were injured or
The three days of violence from December 2 to 4 are depicted as a peculiar
phenomenon by sections of the media. It is as if the Tigers or their minions are
engaging in violence for no apparent reason. While this violence certainly has to
be condemned it is not difficult to seek out the reasons or the underlying causes.
It is of the utmost importance to realise that this particular spree of violence is only
an indicator that the shadow war promoted in the east has now moved to the north
too. Though the LTTE and its agents have engaged in a lot of violence in the past
during the ceasefire, recent developments show that other ‘agencies’too are at
work in Jaffna.
These columns spotlighted some weeks ago that the killing of Kopay Christian
College Principal Nadarajah Sivakadatcham was committed by suspected Eelam
People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) cadres aligned with the military intelligence
division. It is widely believed that security intelligence controlling various anti -
Tiger elements had mapped out a new strategy . The Karuna faction was to be
used for clandestine operations in the east against the mainstream LTTE. The
Eelam National Democratic Liberation Front (ENDLF) was to be used in Vavuniya
and Mannar. The EPDP was to be used in Jaffna. The Sivakadatcham killing along
with the murder of a video shop owner in Uduvil were the surest indicators that the
shadow war had come to the north.
Being aware of this changing equation the political wing members of the LTTE
pulled out of government controlled areas. But the LTTE intelligence wing
operatives and members of the hit squads and pistol groups remained while
maintaining a low profile. The LTTE ‘secret weapon’ with dangerous potential
however was its civilian militia called Makkal Padai or ‘people’s force’.
The Tigers have during the years of unfettered ceasefire brainwashed and trained
a large number of Tamil civilians in armed warfare. The bulk of these are youths.
Many are of a lumpen background.
In recent times these elements have played a big role in promoting political
violence in Jaffna in the name of the people. The brutal murder of ‘King’ Charlie
Wijewardene at Inuvil and related violence was mainly done by these elements.
The violence related to the election boycott campaign in Jaffna was also done by
these elements. The LTTE ‘proper’ plays a behind the scenes role directing and
manipulating events. So the LTTE is able to claim that it is the ‘people’ and not
‘Tigers’ who are behind the violence in Jaffna. Typical Tiger doublespeak!
It was against this backdrop that the ‘Great Heroes Day’ or Maaveerar Naal was
observed on November 27. On November 25 night at about 3. 30 am a killer
squad arrived at a Neervely residence, entered forcibly and shot a 22 year old
youth Narendran Nirojithan. Nirojithan’s brother was a Tiger martyr. Nirojithan
identified openly with the LTTE and was in charge of putting up GHD decorations
in the Neervely area. The injured Nirojithan is receiving treatment in the intensive
care unit of Jaffna hospital.
On December 1 three youths in a Landmaster tractor stopped outside a tea
boutique near the Athiyar Hindu College in Neervely. A killer squad opened fire
and escaped in a three-wheeler. Twenty four year old Roopan was injured but 34
year old Gunaratnam Krishnakumar of Neervely and 24 year old Sinnaiah
Sivakaran of Alaveddy were killed. All three were civilian farmers but supportive of
the LTTE. They had been involved in the Great heroes day ceremonies of the
area. Media reports said that the killers had fled to the Neervely army camp near
the Kopay junction.
It was this incident that set the stage for the violence on the following days. There
is a prevalent feeling among many people that the EPDP cadres aligned to military
intelligence were responsible for the incidents. Interestingly, the residence of
Principal Sivakadatcham as well as the venues of the other incidents were all in
close proximity of the Neervely camp. It is widely believed that the EPDP killer
squad is housed at this camp and let loose periodically to target pro - Tigers or
those with alleged LTTE links. The killers are aided and abetted by the security
It was in such a resentful public mood that a Tiger front known as Tamil National
Security Movement called for a hartal on December 2 to protest the Neervely
killings. Posters were put up, road blocks set up and leaflets distributed. Whether
out of sympathy or fear there was enough public response to the hartal call. The
security forces in some places removed the roadblocks and posters on walls.
A series of attacks were launched on December 2 and 3. The security forces were
the targets. The attacks occurred in Chavakachcheri, Sangathanai, Meesalai,
Neervely, Kopay, Jaffna town, Kuppilan, Allarai, Manthigai, Nelliaddy etc. The
targets were sentry posts, mini camps or security vehicles. The usual practice was
to throw grenades or other explosive devices. In some instances guns were fired.
The perpetrators were all young men on motor cycles.
Organisations calling themselves Makkal Padaigal or people’s forces issued
leaflets warning the security force ‘aggressors’ and their paramilitary acolytes to
stop targeting the people of Tamil Eelam. Otherwise the people would continue to
resist their activities and strive to remove their presence from Jaffna. The
statements were issued in the name of Seeru’ (hissing), Urumum (growling) and
Karchikkum (roaring) Makkal Padaigal.
In Chavakachcheri for instance the security post near the AGA office was attacked
twice on December 3. Explosives were thrown at 1. 30 pm and 3. 30 pm. At
Manthigai in Point Pedro a grenade was thrown at the security personnel guarding
the EPDP office. At Maalisanthy in Nelliaddy an attack was launched against
security personnel near the Telecom office. A fierce fight ensued and though
three soldiers were injured fire was returned against the marauders. Altogether 22
security personnel were injured in 14 attacks over the two days. But it was Sunday
which resulted in the loss of life with nine being killed in three incidents.
Monday December 5 seemed to indicate a lull in the violence. But students of
Hartley College and Methodist Girls’ High School in Point Pedro commenced a
protest demonstration against security forces trying to erect barricades on paths
used by students. There was some stone throwing and the security forces
reacted by tear gassing the demonstrators. It is believed that the whole protest
was instigated by the Tigers.
No LTTE involvement
The LTTE political commissar for Jaffna, Ilamparithy denied LTTE involvement in
an interview to the BBC Thamizhosai Tamil service. He claimed that the people
were reacting to the paramilitaries aided and abetted by security forces.
Ilamparithy also said that explosives in the hands of these paramilitaries had been
seized and used by the people.
There are few takers for Ilamparithy’s puerile attempt to bury the full pumpkin in a
plateful of rice. It seems common knowledge in Jaffna that the violence is done by
pro - Tiger elements of the so called civilian militia with the covert backing and
logistical support of the LTTE.
It is also understood that the LTTE inspired violent response towards the security
forces is a direct consequence of the shifting shadow war. The people do seem to
be aware that killer squads believed to be EPDP are operating with the unofficial
sanction and support of the military intelligence and security forces. Though the
LTTE has engaged in a lot of violence in the past this particular round is seen as
a result of the shadow war. The second deadly attack yesterday which claimed
seven soldiers is confirmation of this.
What the ordinary people fear is an escalation of the simmering conflict. With a
hardline regime in Colombo the official response could become fierce in the days
to come. The Jathika Hela Urumaya is already calling for a ‘war alert.’ This is
exactly what the Tigers want. The LTTE wants Colombo to unleash full scale war.
So the so called response to the alleged shadow war activity is being intensified
to unacceptable levels where the new President will be compelled to respond
forcefully. After all was not ‘Apey Mahinda’ elected to teach the Tigers how to
adhere to a ceasefire?
This is indeed a tricky situation for Mahinda Rajapakse who has already
summoned an emergency meeting to discuss the situation and appointed a three -
member fact finding committee to go into the causes of the current crisis.
Whatever the hawks on either side of the ethnic divide may want, the ordinary
people of Jaffna want only peace. They do not want this shadow war now or for it
to become full - scale war in the future.