Suicide raids put Jaffna in reach of Tamil Tigers

The Tamil Tigers are poised to recapture Jaffna town in the far north of Sri Lanka today after a devastating assault on government positions yesterday, combining suicide tactics with powerful artillery barrages.

In an assault of massive intensity, Tamil fighters launched wave after wave of suicide attacks to smash government positions at Ariyali, three miles from Jaffna, the biggest town in the Jaffna peninsula. According to the Tigers they also seized a crucial bridge, and cut Highway 9 - the main road linking the far north of Sri Lanka to the south - driving a wedge between government forces.

The Sri Lankan government said the assault began at 3am, two days after the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam - who are fighting for an independent state in the north and east of the island - offered the government a ceasefire on condition that its troops vacate the peninsula.

The government wasted no time in rejecting the offer, and in parliament yesterday the deputy defence minister, General Anurudha Ratwatte, said: "We will fight till the last man rather than vacate Jaffna."

The end may now be close. The "suicide waves" of infantry, in which lines of young guerrillas, many of them women and children, hurl themselves at the enemy and the lines behind them trample on their fallen bodies, is one of the techniques by which the Tigers have succeeded in destroying the morale of the Sri Lankan army's raw recruits.

Underwritten by an affluent and loyal Tamil diaspora around the world, the Tigers now seriously outgun government troops, as yesterday's artillery bombardment showed. The Sri Lankan government's feverish arms-buying spree of the past fortnight, in which Israeli helicopter gunships were at the top of the shopping list, now appears to have come too late. Likewise the decision to increase taxes to raise $20m (£13m) for the war effort.

What happens now? India, beset by conflicting urges, stands dithering on the sidelines, but the Sri Lankan army's desperate position may now force it to act. India is extremely reluctant to intervene militarily: its attempt to end the conflict by sending in a peace-keeping force 13 years ago ended in humiliation and the assassination by the Tigers of the Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. But with 27,000 Sri Lankan troops now at the mercy ofthe Tamil Tigers, India's hand may be forced.

Yesterday there was hectic diplomatic activity in Colombo and Delhi aimed at saving the soldiers' lives. India has a fleet of its transport aircraft ready in south Indian air bases, which can organise the rescue of soldiers if necessary. Indian diplomats in Colombo confirmed that talks were in progress but refused to be drawn on details.

If Jaffna falls, it will be by far the worst humiliation theSri Lankan army has suffered in the 17-year civil war. Even an evacuation of troops may only be possible with the Tigers' permission.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there