Operation Liberation Sampur (Sampoor) - 2006 Sampur was under government control until the February 22, 2002 Ceasefire Agreement. After the CFA, the LTTE set up some 19 camps around the Trincomalee harbour and the warnings by the Navy were not taken seriously by the government at that time. Tigers have strengthened themselves in this region not only to attack the Trincomalee Harbour but also for the Sea Tiger operations. Sri Lankan security forces led by Brigade Commander Sarath Wijesinghe re-captured Sampur from the LTTE on September 4, 2006 @ LL/RH Source Agencies The Sampoor region is located in the in the Muthur division of Trincomalee district, across the Kottiar bay. The small town of Sampur has a fishing population of about 400 fishing families. In addition to the Sampoor town, villages like Kattaiparichan, Senaiyoor, Kadatkaraichenai, Koonitheevu, Ambalnagar and Ganeshapuram are in the Sampoor region.
The LTTE had its Trincomalee district headquarters, military head camp, Political office in Sampoor. There were also other tiger institutions like a Police station, courthouse, bank, tax office etc. Presense of LTTE in Sampoor was major security threat to Trincomalee. The Trincomalee harbour and the naval base were very much within the firing range of tiger artillery. Sampoor is of strategic importance as it affords the LTTE a vantage point to fire long range artillery targetting Trincomalee and China Bay across the Kottiar bay. The tigers have fired artillery quite a few times in the past causing a paralysis of Trincomalee harbour. Sampur was under government control until the February 22, 2002 Ceasefire Agreement, despite claims that it is an LTTE-controlled area. Although the forces were withdrawn from the area in 1997 as part of reinforcements for Operation Jayasikuru, the area remained under government control. In fact in January 1998, the police arrested a suspect involved in the attack on Kandy Dalada Maligawa called Darmalingam from the Sampur area, clearly showing the police presence in the area. After the CFA, the LTTE set up some 19 camps around the Trincomalee harbour and the warnings by the Navy were not taken seriously by the government at that time. Sampoor was consolidated and fortified as a marine base by the LTTE after the ceasefire of Feb 23rd 2002. The opening of new bases and the acquisition of long range artillery by the LTTE added much strategic importance to Sampoor lying on the South of Kottiaar bay. Tigers have strengthened themselves in this region not only to attack the Trincomalee Harbour but also for the Sea Tiger operations.
With Trincomalee harbour being only about 13 nautical miles away it is possible to target it effectively from the Sampoor coast. It is also possible to send invading flotillas across. The eastern coast from Foul Point to Mankerni was controlled by the Sea Tigers. Control of this area is of paramount importance as it is the gateway to Batticaloa. Following the clashes in Mavil Aru and Muttur, the LTTE had intensified attacks targeting the naval base in Trincomalee. The new governement under Mahinda Rajapakse treated Sampoor as a matter of urgent priority. Govt began announcing its intention of retaking Sampoor. Preparations for a military onslaught were underfoot with men and materials being relocated to camps in the Muthur region. For the first time we had a government and an executive president of a tiny island ready to withstand pressure from any quarter and do what it feels was prudent and practical in the interest of the country. When the four co- chairs of the peace process urged a cessation of conflict President Rajapakse emphasised that Sampoor would have to come under Military control and that a personal guarantee from LTTE chief Velupillai Pirapakaran was necessary. When the LTTE offered to 'de - militarise' Sampoor and retain control Rajapakse rejected the proposal. "Do you want me to give Sampoor to the LTTE" he thundered. On August 28, 2006 the Sri Lankan military launched an assault to retake the LTTE camps in Sampur and the adjoining Kaddaiparichchan and Thoppur areas. After days of artillery shelling and aerial bombardment a major three - pronged military offensive was launched in the early hours of Monday August 28th morning.
The ground based military thrust was accompanied by aerial bombardment, artillery fire and naval gunboat shelling. Three advances were made within 30 minutes of each from Mahindapuram, Pachanoor and Thoppoor The first which began at 3.30 am from the Mahindapuram army camp was apparently a 'dummy' manouevre intending to distract enemy attention. Soldiers proceeded in virtually the opposite direction of Sampoor towards Poomarathaduchenai. Troops returned to base after intermittent exchanges of fire for about 2 hours. Troops from the 8th Sinha Regiment under Lieutenant Colonel Ramesh Fernando, 6th Gajaba Regiment under Lieutenant Colonel Thalgahawatta, the first and second Special Forces under Major Ihalage, took part in the operation. The LTTE’s forces were led by Col. Sornam, the military commander of the Trincomalee district. Sornam lost his own brother just a week before the Sampur operation. The first major advance began around 4.00 am from the Pachanoor camp. Troops made their way through Kilathimunai and proceeded in the general direction towards Sampoor.The objective seemed to be that of following a less used dirt road that reaches a point between Senaiyoor South and Nallur north. Senaiyoor is adjacent to Sampoor. The second major advance began at about 4. 30 am from the army camp at Thoppoor. Troops began moving towards Pallimunai enroute to Sampoor.This road would have taken the troops via Pallikkudiyiruppu to Pattalipuram.
Another change of direction from there would take the forces to Senaiyoor. Naval gunboats along the coast of Ilakkanthai began shelling the Muthur East littoral region as troops moved out on land. Ilakkanthai is also adjacent to Sampoor along the coast. Artillery shells were fired regularly from the camps at Kattaiparichan, Selvanagar and Thoppoor towards the Muthur East hinterland region while artillery fire continued from Mahindapuram towards Poomarathadichenai and its environs. The Naval base at the Trincomalee harbour and army camp at Monkeys Bridge began firing long range artillery as well as Multi - barrel rocket launchers along the Kottiaar bay towards the Sampoor coast. Aerial bombardment was also on with Kfirs and Migs flying regular bombing sorties . These planes had been bombing the Tamil majority Muthur East and Eechilampattru - Verugal regions on and off from April 25th onwards. Likewise artillery and rocket fire too had been directed towards Muthur East on many occasions in the past. The region had been a target long before the Maavilaaru crisis erupted. Tiger cadres engaged advancing troops in the general area of Thoppoor at the crack of dawn. Fierce fighting ensued for several hours and subsided only in the evening. LTTE fighters also blocked the advance of troops from Pachanoor in the Kilathimunai area. According to agency reports at least 13 soldiers were killed on the first day.
Many were wounded with 79 being hospitalised. 49 were admitted to Trincomalee and 30 to Polonnaruwa hospitals respectively. LTTE casualties on the first day were unclear but defence officials claimed that many tigers were killed. The second day of fighting on Tuesday August 29th saw the armed forces break out at first light from three positions again. Apart from Pachanoor and Thoppoor troops began advancing from the Kattaiparichan camp. This is along the Koddiar bay coast like Sampoor. Only two villages Senaiyoor and Kadatkaraichenai are between Kattaiparichan and Sampoor. While the army and navy had camps in Kattaiparichan not all areas in the east of the area were under Govt Control. A substantial portion of Kattaiparichan is a virtual no man's land. The second days assault also saw the armed forces using a large number of tanks and armoured cars. The ground based advances were accompanied by Aerial bombardment, Artillery fire and Naval gunboat shelling. On the Pachanoor front the LTTE positions were fortified at a point near a jungle stream. After fierce fighting the tigers retreated across the stream and began engaging in mortar fire. On the Thoppoor front the LTTE managed to restrict the troops from advancing too far beyond Forward Defence lines. On the third front at Kattaiparichan the armed forces moved across no mans land and began fighting the LTTE near its positions along a bridge. After intense warfare the LTTE retreated behind the bridge.
Thereafter artillery exchanges commenced. The second day's fighting saw the armed forces losing six or seven men. The LTTE suffered heavier losses. At least 18 tigers were killed and 28 injured. The third day of strife on Aug 30th saw a marked drop in the intensity of fighting. With the armed forces suspending all attempts to advance on ground the LTTE too did not engage the troops. The army began clearing and consolidating the areas they had gained. Troops began clearing landmines,booby traps etc and constructing bunkers and trenches. The LTTE did not make any attempt to launch counter attacks. Both sides engaged in sporadic artillery and mortar fire. There were some casualties on either side. Heavy artillery fire from camps or long range fire from Trincomalee coast or aerial bombardment did not take place. Naval gunboats continued to patrol the Sampoor coast and occasionally shelled the coastal areas.. The navy claimed to have destroyed a tiger boat coming from Verugal off Ilakkanthai. Aug 31st or the fourth day saw fighting erupt with a vengeance. Security forces moved out of two positions from the Pachanoor and Kattaiparichan fronts. There was no forward movement from the Thoppoor front. The LTTE began resisting. Both sides engaged in incessant artillery and mortar fire. Artillery and aerial attacks also continued. At Kattaiparichan the tigers went back another 500 to 600 metres from their earlier position. Kattaiparichan is about 6 km from Sampoor. Special Force commandoes had been deployed along the Kattaiparichan front. After four days of fighting the armed forces seemed to have made some territorial gains.
At Kattaiparichan they have advanced about three km. At Pachanoor they have advanced about two km while at Thoppoor the security forces have moved about a km forward. They were in the process of consolidating these gains. Both the security forces and tigers seemed to have lost about 20 to 25 each in the first three days of fighting. The Govt said that more than 90 LTTE have been killed while the tigers say around 60 soldiers have been killed. As far as injured persons are concerned the armed forces figure after three days were in the range of 110 - 125 while the LTTE suffered about 50 to 60 wounded. The war afflicted region has undergone severe destruction due to aerial and artillery attacks. Realising that a major onslaught to capture Sampoor was to be launched frightened civilians began fleeing. Many people made it over the river to Batticaloa district. These new arrivals were housed at schools in Kathiraveli and Paatsenai temporarily. With hospitals in the area being dysfunctional and transport options restricted it was the LTTE?s medical unit which attended to these victims. Another two wounded civilians died later. It is reported that lack of medical facilities has affected wounded civilians badly.However no further civilan casualties were reported after the first day. After steady progress, Sri Lankan security forces led by Brigade Commander Sarath Wijesinghe re-captured Sampur from the LTTE on September 4, and began to establish military bases there, as the LTTE admitted defeat and stated their cadres "withdrew" from the strategically important town. It marked the first significant territorial change of hands since the signing of the ceasefire agreement in 2002. The Sri Lankan Military estimated that 33 personnel were killed in the offensive, along with over 200 LTTE cadres. A total area of 140 square kilometres was brought under the military control in the Sampur region.
"OUR armed forces have captured Sampur for the welfare and benefit of the people living there," a beaming Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sri Lankan President, announced to the delight of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) delegates in Colombo on September 4, 2006. The ruling party could not have asked for a better birthday gift. Muttur and Trinco are now safe thanks to the securing of Sampur. The victory of Sampur was a hard-earned reward for the security forces engaged in an undeclared war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).