Current military situation in the North West, including Mannar Island and Mannar District (March 1999-October 1999) [LKA33041.E]

Please consult LKA32979.E of 18 October 1999 for information on 1999 battles in the Vanni, including Madhu.

Mannar District and parts of Vavuniya and Kilinochchi Districts make up the northwestern section of the Vanni (The Daily Star 16 Apr. 1999).

In early December 1998 security was tightened on Mannar Island as a result of reports of LTTE infiltration (Sri Lanka Monitor Dec. 1998).

Military Operation "Rana Gosa I" ("Battle Cry") was conducted from 4-6 March 1999 in the northwestern sector of the Vanni and met with little LTTE resistance (INFORM Mar. 1999a, 5: Sri Lanka Monitor Mar. 1999; The Daily Star 16 Apr. 1999; The Hindu 8 Mar. 1999). This operation, a two-pronged drive from two directions towards Iranaiiluppaikulam (a key intersection located 27 km northwest of Vavuniya town), cleared approximately 570 square km (The Daily Star 16 Apr. 1999; The Sunday Times 16 May 1999), consisting of 24-25 villages in 17 Grama Sevaka divisions west of Mankulam of the LTTE, and "liberated" approximately 15,000 civilians (The Hindu 8 Mar. 1999; Daily News 9 Mar. 1999; The Sunday Times 16 May 1999). The newly cleared areas included Mankulam, Vannivilankulam, Moonru Murippu, Mundumurippu, Iranaiillupaikulam and Poorvarasankulam (The Hindu 8 Mar. 1999; The Sunday Times 16 May 1999).

On 17 March 1999 the LTTE shelled Thallady military base, 3 miles south of Mannar town, killing 11-20 soldiers and injuring 20 others (INFORM Mar. 1999b, 6; Sri Lanka Monitor Mar. 1999; The Daily Star 16 Apr. 1999). This attack marked the first time the LTTE used the Chinese 122 guns they had taken from the SLA in previous encounters (INFORM Mar. 1999b, 6). The camp's ammunition dump was reportedly completely destroyed in the attack (ibid.; The Daily Star 16 Apr. 1999). The SLA retaliated, shelling LTTE artillery positions in Vidataltivu and Pappamoddai in northern Mannar, damaging a church in Vidataltivu and a medical centre in Pallamadu, forcing approximately 5,000 people to flee (Sri Lanka Monitor Mar. 1999).

Security forces launched Operation "Rana Gosa II" in Mannar District on either 19 March (Sri Lanka Monitor Mar. 1999; The Sunday Times 16 May 1999) or 22 March 1999 (The Daily Star 16 Apr. 1999; Dawn 25 Mar. 1999), and within a few days, had captured approximately 325 square km and "liberated" about 20,000 civilians from 14 villages (ibid.; Sri Lanka News Update 25 Mar. 1999; The Daily Star 16 Apr. 1999; DPA 23 Mar. 1999). The army took control of Madhu town on 22 March 1999 (AFP 22 Mar. 1999). The LTTE offered little resistance throughout this military phase (The Tribune 30 Mar. 1999; The Sunday Times 19 Sept. 1999; Sri Lanka Monitor Mar. 1999; AFP 22 Mar. 1999).

The Rt. Rev. Joseph Rayappa, Catholic Bishop of Mannar, appealed to the military commanders to maintain as a demilitarized zone Madhu church and the surrounding area that houses 20-30,000 civilians in relief centres (Dawn 25 Mar. 1999; Sri Lanka Monitor Mar. 1999; The Daily Star 16 Apr. 1999), as a military presence on the church grounds could make the church vulnerable to LTTE attacks (ibid.; Tamil Times 15 Apr. 1999, 8). However, on 24 March 1999 the SLA moved into the area around the Madhu church (INFORM Mar. 1999b, 6-7), set up camp in Madhu's school premises (Dawn 25 Mar. 1999; TamilNet 23 Mar. 1999), and by the end of the month was setting up check points and building bunkers around Madhu town, before beginning to screen town residents (The Tribune 30 Mar. 1999; Sri Lanka Monitor Mar. 1999). The SLA prevented civilians from moving out of their villages and camp areas "until further notice" (TamilNet 23 Mar. 1999). In a letter to President Chandrika Kumaratunga Rt. Rev. Royappu objected to the military establishments in the Madhu church area on grounds of the religious importance of the Catholic shrine there and the tradition of sanctuary (The Tribune 30 Mar. 1999; Tamil Times 15 Apr. 1999, 8).

TamilNet reported that the army operation to take Madhu had displaced more than 30,000 people in the western section of mainland Mannar (24 Mar. 1999). Civilians in the villages of Parappukkandal, Aandaankulam, Adampan, Paalaiyadi, Adampanthaalvu, Puthukkulam, Paasimoddai, Kaaththaankulam, Pallamadu, Karungkandal fled their homes and moved to safer areas further north such as Kalliady and Iluppaikkadavai (ibid.).

On 9-10 May 1999 the military launched Operation "Rana Gosa III" and advanced north-west from Madhu towards Vidataltivu (Sri Lanka Monitor May 1999a; The Sunday Times 16 May 1999). According to Colombo's INFORM, a "key consequence" of Operation "Rana Gosa III" was the military occupation of the areas surrounding Madhu church, as well as the evacuation of the resident population (INFORM May 1999, 7).

Deputy Defence Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte announced the closure of welfare centres around Madhu and the relocation of the centres' residents to other parts of the Vanni (INFORM May 1999, 7; Sri Lanka Monitor May 1999b; ibid. June 1999b). Residents from the UNHCR-assisted Madhu refugee camp in Mannar and the UNHCR-assisted Thatchanamaruthamadhu camp nearby were also resettled (ibid.). This relocation occurred in several stages with some families going to parts of Mannar, Thatchana Marudhamadhu, Pesalai, Murunkan and Katkdanthakulam areas, while others went to Palampiddy, Chettikulam and newly cleared areas of the Vanni, while those from Jaffna were taken to Trincomalee and placed on ships bound for Jaffna (INFORM May 1999, 8). More than 1,000 Jaffna Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) reportedly staged a protest at the UNHCR office in Madhu, emphasizing their desire to stay in Mannar (Sri Lanka Monitor May 1999b).

With the sudden closure of the UNHCR-assisted refugee camp in Madhu in early May 1999 and the renewed fighting in parts of the Vanni, approximately 21,000 individuals were housed in 15 camps in and around Vavuniya by the end of June (INFORM June 1999, 6b; Sri Lanka Monitor June 1999b). Two camps located in two of Vadaltivu's churches were reportedly stretched to their limits to accommodate the new IDPs (INFORM June 1999, 6b). Senior state officials in northern Sri Lanka reportedly "appealed" for assistance in early July after 25,000 people were displaced at Vidataltivu (Sri Lanka Monitor June 1999a).

As a result of these three 'bloodless' phases of Operation "Rana Gosa," the SLA captured approximately 960-995 square km in the western section of the Vanni (The Daily Star 16 Apr. 1999; The Tribune 14 June 1999) with little LTTE resistance (The Sunday Times 19 Sept. 1999).

On 10 June 1999 Sri Lankan security forces launched Operation "Rana Gosa IV" in the Vanni and Jaffna, advancing west of Madhu along the Mannar-Jaffna road (INFORM June 1999a, 5; Sri Lanka Monitor June 1999) with the aim of opening a 70 km-long highway connecting Mannar with the Jaffna peninsula (The Tribune 14 June 1999). The Sri Lanka Monitor described the LTTE resistance as "mild" (June 1999a), while Iqbal Athas writing in Colombo's weekly The Sunday Times described it as "stiff" with "fierce" contact between the SLA and the LTTE (19 Sept. 1999). The army captured Andankulam, Adampan, and the coastal village of Pappamoddai, and imposed a night curfew on these areas (Sri Lanka Monitor June 1999a). The LTTE's "clandestine rebel radio, the Voice of Tigers" announced the loss of its stronghold Viduthailai Thivu, located about 20 km from the army-controlled Mannar town (The Tribune 14 June 1999). Operation "Rana Gosa IV" ended on 12 June 1999 with the liberation by the SLA of 20,000 people within 358 square km incorporating 28 villages in Mannar, Manthai West and Madhu divisional secretariat divisions of Mannar District (Daily News 18 June 1999; Sri Lanka News Update 15 June 1999). Security authorities began registering the newly-liberated villagers to "avert inconvenience to them and to identify outsiders to the area" (Daily News 18 June 1999). By 26 June 1999 the entire area of Viduthaltivu (Vidataltivu) in Mannar District was reportedly under army control (INFORM June 1999a, 5). Due to the military operations, the SLA suspended bus services between Mannar and Vavuniya, and suspended it indefinitely between Mannar Island and the mainland and the southern areas (INFORM June 1999b, 6-7). On 26 June 1999 the humanitarian supply route through Pappamoddai in Mannar District was closed following Operation "Rana Gosa IV" (Sri Lanka Monitor July 1999). Negotiations for a new supply route to the area have begun between the SLA and the LTTE (ibid.).

There are no reports of military operations in the North West between late June 1999 and early September 1999 among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

On 12 September 1999 the SLA launched Operation "Rana Gosa V" in Mannar District (The Sunday Times 19 Sept. 1999; AFP 13 Sept. 1999; Sri Lanka Monitor Sept. 1999a; The Tribune 13 Sept. 1999), ending a nine-week lull in fighting (AFP 13 Sept. 1999). Operation "Rana Gosa V" turned out to be the bloodiest of all "Rana Gosa" Operations in 1999 (Daily News 15 Sept. 1999), as the LTTE put up a "stiff" resistance and both sides fought an intense battle (The Sunday Times 19 Sept. 1999). A significant feature of this operation was the LTTE's "avoidance of direct contact with the security forces ... [The use of] Stand Off weapons [was] resorted to extensively with the use of 120mm/81mm mortars, Multi Barrel Rocket Launchers (MBRLs) and 122mm artillery" (The Sunday Times 19 Sept. 1999). On 13 September 1999 Operation "Rana Gosa V " "ended abruptly" (ibid.). In September 1999 it was reported that the LTTE continued to infiltrate Mannar Island (Sri Lanka Monitor Sept. 1999b). Journalist Iqbal Athas of The Sunday Times questioned the timing of this operation, so close to the breaking of the monsoon period, stating that with the failure of Rana Gosa V, it is unlikely that the government would score any "major successes" before February-May 2000 (The Sunday Times 19 Sept. 1999).

The Sri Lanka Monitor reported in September 1999a that as a result of the continuing military operations in the Vanni, and lack of food and shelter, thousands of IDPs wished to leave the area.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


Agence France Presse (AFP). 13 September 1999. "Fresh Sri Lanka Fighting Kills More Than 150." (NEXIS)

_____. 22 March 1999. "Sri Lanka Troops Capture Key Pilgrim Town From Rebel Control." (NEXIS)

Daily News [Colombo]. 15 September 1999. Richard de Silva. "Troops Consolidating in Liberated Areas." [Accessed 15 Sept. 1999]

_____. 18 June 1999. Ranil Wijayapala. "Twenty Thousand People and 28 Villages in Mannar Liberated by 4th Ranagosa Operation." [Accessed 18 June 1999]

_____. 9 March 1999. Richard de Silva. "As Operation Rana Gosa Gets Under Way, 15,000 Northern Villagers Liberated From LTTE Terrorists." [Accessed 9 Mar. 1999]

The Daily Star [Dhaka]. 16 April 1999. D.B.S. Jeyaraj "Strategic Changes in the Wanni." [Accessed 16 Apr. 1999]

Dawn [Karachi]. 25 March 1999. Ranjitha Balasubramanyam. "Lankan Army Trying to Regain Key Area Before Elections." [Accessed 25 Mar. 1999]

Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA). 23 March 1999. BC Cycle. "Sri Lankan Forces Retake More Rebel Areas." (NEXIS)

The Hindu [Chennai/Madras]. 8 March 1999. "Sri Lanka-Army Gains Ground in LTTE-Controlled Areas." (NEXIS)

Sri Lankan Information Monitor (INFORM) [Colombo]. June 1999a. Situation Report. "The War."

_____. June 1999b. Situation Report. "Civilian Life in the Vanni."

_____. May 1999. Situation Report. "Madhu."

_____. March 1999a. Situation Report. "Overview."

_____. March 1999b. Situation Report. "War in the North and East."

Sri Lanka Monitor [London]. September 1999a. "Army Halted at Periyamadu." [Accessed 15 Oct. 1999]

_____. September 1999b. "GA Arrested." slmonitor/September99/arre.html [Accessed 15 Oct. 1999]

_____. July 1999. "Humanitarian Crisis in Vanni." slmonitor/June99/huma.html [Accessed 15 Oct. 1999]

_____. June 1999a. "Army Strike Mannar." slmonitor/June99/army.html [Accessed 15 Oct. 1999]

_____. June 1999b. "GA Asks for More." slmonitor/June99/asks.html [Accessed 15 Oct. 1999]

_____. May 1999a. "Food Problems." May99/food.html [Accessed 15 Oct. 1999]

_____. May 1999b. "Madhu Camp." May99/madu.html [Accessed 15 Oct. 1999]

_____. March 1999. "Battle Cry in the Vanni." brcslproject/slmonitor/March99/batt.html [Accessed 15 Oct. 1999]

Sri Lanka News Update [Colombo]. 15 June 1999. "Nineteen LTTE Terrorists Killed in the North." [Accessed 15 Oct. 1999] (Compiled by the Department of Foreign Affairs)

_____. 25 March 1999. "Civilians in the Madhu Area to be Provided with Essential Items." [Accessed 15 Oct. 1999] (Compiled by the Department of Foreign Affairs)

The Sunday Times [Colombo]. 19 September 1999. Iqbal Athas. "The Situation Report: Rana Gosa V Disaster Bares Tiger Build-Up." 990919/sitrep.htm [Accessed 15 Oct. 1999]

_____. 16 May 1999. Iqbal Athas. "The Situation Report: Wanni Battle as Country Watches World Cup." 990516/sitrep.htm [Accessed 15 Oct. 1999]

TamilNet. 24 March 1999. "30,000 Newly Displaced in Mannar." [Accessed 27 Oct. 1999]

_____. 23 March 1999. "Operation Rana Gosa II Takes Madu." [Accessed 27 Oct. 1999]

Tamil Times [Surrey]. 15 April 1999. Vol. 18, No. 4. "Bishop Calls For Removal of Troops from Church."

The Tribune [Chandigarh]. 14 September 1999. "Heavy Fighting in Lanka; 171 Killed." [Accessed 14 Sept. 1999]

_____. 13 September 1999. "58 LTTE Guerrillas Killed." [Accessed 15 Sept. 1999]

_____. 14 June 1999. "Over 120 Killed in Lanka Fighting." [Accessed 14 June 1999]

_____. 30 March 1999. "Bishop Objects to Army's Presence Near Church." [Accessed 30 Mar. 1999]