Sri Lanka: The Nibble Offensive

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September 7, 2007: In the last week, the army moved to chase LTTE gunmen out of a area in the northeast. This was to make it possible to get food to about 7,000 civilians who were being starved out by an LTTE blockade. The LTTE have thousands of gunmen blocking the main road to the northeastern Jaffna peninsula, forcing the government to use ships to feed several hundred thousand civilians. Moving along the northeastern coast, troops seized the coastal town of Silawathurai, south of Jaffna, and captured an LTTE naval base (including three boats and a large quantity of mines.) About twenty people were killed in the several days this took. Most of the dead were rebels. Further searching uncovered twenty inflatable boats, with outboard engines, and more weapons (nearly a ton of ammo and explosives).

The government was quick to point out that this was not a "major offensive." Only a few thousand troops were involved, and most of them didn't move very far. While the government is apparently going to try and nibble the LTTE to death up north, the rebels are relying more on increased terror operations. These are not going so well. LTTE terrorists in the east and around the capital are being turned in, or simply detected, and arrested. Bomb making materials are being captured, and it's feared that eventually one of the LTTE attack plans will get carried out.

The LTTE is also trying to use food shortages up north, where LTTE gunmen block many roads, to elicit international sympathy. This hasn't worked very well, but the tactic of using human shields has had some success. The LTTE are increasingly putting military bases in the middle of residential areas. Thus government artillery or air attacks will cause lots of civilian casualties, which the LTTE will publicize as an example of government war crimes. Meanwhile, the government is making a greater effort to gather accurate information on LTTE activities. This includes more long range patrols (deep into LTTE controlled territory), more electronic listening devices (for radio and cell phones) and more regular patrols by army troops on the front line.

September 4, 2007: The LTTE campaign to drive Moslems out of eastern Sri Lanka had a noxious side effect. Islamic radical groups formed to fight back. These groups grew out of Wahhabi missionary efforts (funded by Saudi Arabian religious charities). The Wahhabi preach a very conservative form of Islam, and the need to fight non-Moslems. The Islamic radicals formed a coalition with Moslem gangsters, so that when the army pushed the LTTE out of the east, they found armed Moslem groups, that don't want to disarm.

 

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