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|Author:||Guest [ Fri Aug 15, 2008 9:58 am ]|
|Post subject:||Defending Kattaparichchan|
Kattaparichchan was the last security forces camp on the Sampur-Mutur road. The government controlled area ended at the Kattaparichchan bridge, just a few hundred meters from the security force's camp. The troops could see the Tigers on guard on the other end of the bridge.
At the dawn of August 2, 2006 the Tamil Tigers launched a simultaneous attack on Kattaparichchan, Selvanagar, Mahindapura military camps and Mutur naval detachment. The attack was a pre-planned, coordinated offensive in the wider strategy to scuttle the operations in the Trincomalee harbour. The Kattaparichchan army camp on the border of the then LTTE controlled Sampur was to receive the brunt of the attack.
The LTTE attackers had sneaked into the government side, having crossed the river, which was the defacto boarder of the then LTTE controlled Sampur and Government controlled Mutur.
By the time the Tiger onslaught began at dawn on August 2nd, there were only 26 personnel inside the Kattaparichchan army detachment. Two platoons with two officers were out on routine night duty.
Young captain Wijitha Alexander was the Commanding Officer of the detachment. Alexander's immediate boss, Major Senaka Wijesuriya, the second in command of the 7 CLI was at the Pahalathopur military detachment.
Staff Sergeant P.K. Kaluarachchi was the second in command of the detachment at the time of attack.
Around midnight the lights went out. Two four-man teams and two eight-man teams were stationed with immediate effect. The actual attack came in the early hours of August 02, 2006. Their first target was the 24 hour road block situated 200 metres from the Kattaparichchan bridge along Sampur-Muttur Road. It came from the villages in north of the Camp. And in fifteen minutes the attack started getting severe. The two four-man teams stationed outside the camp and the personnel manning the road block were immediately ordered back to the camp.
When informed of the attack, Major Wijesuriya radioed his two officers and fifty men to return to the Kattaparichchan detachment. The timely decision increased the man power of the camp. Even then, the LTTE outnumbered the soldiers, with five hundred odd Tiger cadres surrounding the camp.
The LTTE overrun the defence bunker lines of the camp one after the another. Eight bunkers were taken over by the tigers, leaving seven soldiers wounded and one dead. Captain Wijitha Alexander and Staff Sergeant P.K. Kaluarachchi decided to regain control of the eight bunkers. With the personnel that had manned the road block and the other two four-man teams, around 5:30 a.m. they recaptured the eight bunkers. But by then every nook and cranny of the camp was subject to shelling by artillery, RPG and mortar attacks that went on for hours.
For his luck or instinct, Major Wijesuriya that day decided to send two teams to reconnaissance the rear of the Pahala Thopur camp. Usually, he sends teams to guard off possible LTTE attackers from the front. However his instincts saved him from a greater Tiger offensive. The two teams came across a team of LTTE cadres, who were on the mission to attack the Pahala thopur military detachment from the rear. The soldiers ambushed the advancing LTTE team forcing the Tigers to retreat.
As this was taking place, Captain Alexander and his men had to fight against over 500 odd LTTE cadres. As fighting raged, the security forces and LTTE positions were only 20 meters. It looked more like a medieval dual.
The attack dragged on till evening and the enemy cadres showed no signs of backing off. The terrorists were using the ditch - that led to the camp from the road block - in order to gain access to the camp. Corporal Hanthanage who was covering the ditch with an LMG (Light Machine Gun), took a severe hit in the forehead as he tried to prevent the LTTE cadres from getting into the camp. He was immediately carried to the main bunker and administered first aid. Corporal Hanthanage kept on saying that he wanted to go back and rejoin the battle. They were in a critical situation as the attack was relentless and the number of casualties were rising. Corporal Hanthanage forced himself back to the bunker despite his condition.
The enemy was at the entrance. The soldiers could also see a large number of enemy casualties laying around. Captain Alexander said this kept his troopers moral high.
The attack began to get more intense as the terrorists commenced attack on the bunkers again. Corporal Hanthanage and another soldier who was manning one of the bunkers died instantly. But due to the dedication and bravery of people like Corporal Hanthanage, they were able to keep the camp from falling into the hands of the terrorists. The attack lasted till the next morning.
The intensity of the attack started to lessen by morning. They came to know that there were nine bodies of tigers lying around with their weapons, but they couldn’t be retrieved because the camp was still under attack by enemy artillery.
“By August 04 buildings were burning due to continuous shelling. We had long run out of water.” And ammunition was fast running out. A few biscuits from a destroyed canteen and a little water were the only left-over that sustained them.
As days passed, Major Wijesuriya instructed soldiers not to fire bursts, instead target and fire. Alexander called for air strikes at the close proximity to the camp.
But no matter how critical the situation they didn’t allow the bunkers to be recaptured by the terrorists. “The personnel that manned the road block including seven women fought side by side with us in the bunkers.” And to their advantage, the bunkers held well against the incessant shelling because they were of good standard.
Reinforcements of sixty men of the Gemunuhewa Regiment arrived on the third day with a fresh supply of ammunition. They had to attack their way through the LTTE cadres to get into the camps, but had to hold the transfer of dead bodies and casualties till the 5th due to heavy enemy fire.
By August 8, the LTTE gave up the attempt as its casualties mounted.
In a battle that killed 82 LTTE cadres, that lasted for six days, four soldiers died and 29 others were wounded. But considering the force of the attack, the casualties were few. It could have turned out much worse had it not been for the dedication of people like Corporal Hanthanage and proper leadership provided by his superiors.
Corporal Hanthanage was married with one child at the time of his death. But for him duty came first. He volunteered to go back into the battle, against orders, in spite of his condition. He did not think of his family or for that matter his own life. His conduct was truly exemplary. “The Army lost an important man at a crucial moment.”
The LTTE's rehearsal plan was to overrun the Kattaparichchan detachment in 12 minutes. But as the soldiers put a fierce defence, the fight dragged on. The attacks on Selvanagar and Mahindapura Army detachments were intended to cut off the reinforcements for the besieged Kattaparichchan camp.
The Tigers failed in the offensive and paid with a huge toll of casualties.
Corporal Hanthanage was posthumously awarded the Rana Sura Medal and promoted to the rank of Junior NCO (Non Commissioned Officer). Staff Sergeant P.K. Kaluarachchi, who is now a Sergeant Major in the Liberation Mission of Madhu, Captain Wijitha Alexander and two other officers of higher ranks have been nominated for Weera Wickrama Vibhushana Gallantry Awards. Others who played a part in saving the camp from LTTE clutches received Rana Sura as well as Rana Wickrama Medals.
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