In the last two
weeks, fighting has intensified. On the front line in northern Sri Lanka, the
LTTE is on the defensive, having lost nearly a thousand fighters so far this
year. Total combat and terrorism deaths in the last year are nearly 5,000.
The naval blockade has deprived the
LTTE of artillery and mortar ammo, while the army has plenty. Then there are
the increasingly effective air force bombing missions. The LTTE has lost dozens
of bunkers in the north, and had to retreat from its long held front lines. The
LTTE is also suffering a manpower shortage, and more teenagers are being
recruited to man the front lines. These kids are no match for the artillery and
experienced soldiers, and often flee or quickly surrender.
In response, the LTTE has turned more
to terror attacks. While most of the LTTE terror attacks are in the north, the
Tamil terrorists managed to set off a bomb in the capital, killing eleven
people at a railroad station on February 3rd. This was also seen as an LTTE
attempt to scare off foreign tourists and investments. This has sent local
stock markets down seven percent last year, and four percent so far this year.
The economy is growing despite the fighting, and the LTTE wants to stop that.
Two more terror attacks on February 4th, Sri Lankan independence
day, killed another 14 people. At this point, the terror attacks are
counterproductive. The Sinhalese majority just gets angrier, rather than
scared. The terror operations are not sufficient to change the course of the
The army is closing in on towns in the
north that have been held by the LTTE for years. In desperation, the Tamils
continue to try and smuggle ammo in from India, and there are still several
clashes at sea every week. But the navy has the edge, and sinks more boats than
it loses. On the ground, it's been noted that many hard core LTTE leaders have
died in the last year, and been replaced by less able, and often less
aggressive, men. But the army still
fears that the LTTE is harboring a reserve of several hundred highly trained,
and well led, fighters. These could be used to do a lot of damage in a local
attack. Thus the army has been cautious in the way it advances into enemy
territory. The government prefers to win slowly, rather than rush ahead and
risk some nasty reverses.