Rains, troop shortages prevent Sri Lanka push against rebels

Aug 12, 2007 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s military has been unable to push into Tamil Tiger strongholds in the north due to the threat of monsoon rains and a lack of manpower, defence officials and analysts say. The rebels are fighting for an independent homeland for the island’s minority Tamils. More than 60,000 people have been killed in the conflict since 1972. The government had hoped to build on recent territorial gains in the east of the troubled island by going after guerrilla bases in the northern Wanni region, where the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) run a mini-state.

“Inter-monsoon rains start in October and it will be difficult to move tanks and heavy guns in boggy conditions,” said one field commander who asked not to be named.

“But in the run-up to the monsoon, there could be smaller-scale operations.”

The LTTE last month admitted losing its final bastion in the jungles of Sri Lanka’s Eastern province, but vowed to keep up hit-and-run attacks in the area.

One senior officer attributed the victory last month to a combination of superior tactics, firepower and guerrilla-style attacks behind enemy lines.

“What they used to do is send small groups to harass us. We had t