Period May 1987 – June 1987
|689 killed 631 killed|
Location Jaffna, Sri Lanka
|Result Partial Sri Lankan Army victory|
Similar First Battle of Elephant Pass, Battle of Mullaitivu, Second Battle of Elephant, Indian intervention in the Sri, Jaffna University Helidrop
Operation Liberation or the Vadamarachchi Operation was the military offensive carried out by the Sri Lankan military in May and June 1987 to recapture the territory of Vadamarachchi in the Jaffna peninsula from the LTTE (Tamil Tigers). It was the first conventional warfare engagement on Sri Lankan soil after the end of British colonial rule.
Brig. Denzil Kobbekaduwa and Col. Vijaya Wimalaratne led the government troops. Brig. G. H. De Silva acted as the Overall Operations Commander. Former Sri Lankan President Junius Richard Jayewardene and minister of National Security Lalith Athulathmudali had political leadership for the operation until the government of India dropped food supplies over Jaffna in Operation Poomalai on June 4, 1987, which prompted the government to accept the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord.
The offensive started on May 26, 1987, under the leadership of two commanders with 8,000 troops from several battalions from Gemunu Watch (under the Command of Lt. Col. Vipul Botheju and Lt. Col. Wasantha Perera), Gajaba Regiment (under the command of Lt. Col. Sathis Jayasundara and Maj. Gotabaya Rajapaksa) and Sri Lanka Light Infantry (under Lt. Col. Naradha Wickramarathne and Maj. Sarath Fonseka), supported by the Sri Lanka Air Force. Brig. G. H. de Silva was in commanded of the 2 Brigade Group, tasked on Deception planning and Holding Operations. It was difficult for the troops to break out from the Thondamanaru area because LTTE forces blew up the Thondamanaru bridge to delay the government forces from reaching Valvettithurai, the birthplace of LTTE leader V. Prabhakaran. The eastern side of Thondamanaru was heavily mined by the LTTE and clearing of the mines and booby traps were left to a 2nd Field Engineer Squadron of the Sri Lanka Engineers commanded by Maj. Lucky Rajasinghe. The first day of the battle belonged mainly to the field engineer squadron. Engineers neutralized and removed mines and booby traps left by LTTE forces, losing 42 men in four hours and suffering injuries to its commander Maj. Rajasinghe. The unit crossed the minefield under intense fire from LTTE bunkers, with support from 1 Gajaba Regiment commanded by Maj. Gotabaya Rajapakse. On May 28 troops managed to capture Udupiddy and Valvettithurai, and another column (commandos, under the command of Maj. Sarath Handapangoda) captured Nelliady and advanced towards Point Pedro without giving LTTE units time to regroup. By the first week of June the government forces managed to gain control over the entire zone and captured large amounts of arms left behind by retreating LTTE forces. Military intelligence discovered that LTTE leader Prabakaran, along with Sea Tiger leader Col. Soosai, narrowly escaped from advancing troops.
The second stage of this operation was launched on June 3, 1987, with the goal of capturing the city of Jaffna, but was abandoned. Indian military cargo planes escorted by fighter aircraft dropped humanitarian relief supplies in the Jaffna area on June 4 in Operation Poomalai. Indian forces landed in Sri Lanka on July 29 with the signing of the Indo-Sri-Lankan accord.