Archive for October, 2007

The Sri Lankan security forces could not avert the LTTE attack on Anuradhapura air base which claimed over 30 lives earlier this week, despite the Indian installed radar system providing timely warning about the light rebel aircraft hovering over area, officials said.

Defence Ministry officials here said the LTTE’s light aircraft were spotted by the Indian installed radar system in Vavuniya in the island’s embattled north, but in the prevailing confusion, no aircraft was able to intercept the two LTTE planes which managed to drop bombs in the Air Force base.

When asked whether the Indian installed radar picked the LTTE aircraft on time to enable the security forces to get on alert, Air Force Commander Roshan Goonatilleke told reporters that “it worked well”.

The deadly attack on Monday on the air base led to the death of 20 LTTE cadres and 13 security forces personnel.

“Our attack capability has not been reduced in any way (due to the attack), but we are hoping to replace the aircraft we lost in double quick time,” Goonetileke said. The defence ministry said the commando-style suicide attack on the key Air Force base destroyed eight air craft worth 15 million dollars.

“The loss is around 15 million dollars,” Goonatilleke said stressing that the aircraft were damaged due to the rebel ground attack and not by the aerial attack.

The Naval chief said a Beechcraft that was also destroyed during the LTTE attack would now cost about three to four million dollars and with the equipment it may be six million dollars.

The Naval chief said that it would take about four months to replace the lost aircraft.

Goonatilleke said the air force manning the base at the time of the attack repulsed the rebel attack and saved several aircraft parked at the camp from being damaged.

In their first ever coordinated land and air strike, the Tigers used their light wing aircraft to bomb the base while staging a devastating attack after infiltrating into the airbase.

The Air Force has already initiated two top-level investigations into the base attack. Goonatilleke also told reporters on Friday that the work on Sri Lanka’s new air defence system was expected to be completed next year and that a substantial portion of it has already been done.

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The availability of real time maritime intelligence from South and South East Asian countries has been a key factor in the Sri Lankan navy’s recent stunning successes against the intrepid and innovative naval wing of the LTTE.

“Both ASEAN and SAARC are now highly sensitive to maritime terrorism seeing it as a common threat, and intelligence is shared,” an informed  source told Hindustan Times explaining the Sri Lankan Navy’s successful hits against the LTTE’s Sea Tigers in the past year.

The Sri Lankan naval spokesman, Commodore DKP Dassanayake, had said that in the past 13 months, the Navy has destroyed 8 large LTTE vessels, 11 multi-day trawlers and six to seven small boats off the North, North  Western and Southern coasts of the island.

Explaining the modus operandi of the LTTE, Com.Dassanayake said that munitions and dual purpose material were smuggled out in small boats and then put on mother ships anchored in mid sea. As these ships near the Sri Lankan coast, the consignments are loaded into multi-day “fishing” trawlers and then again transferred to small “fishing” boats and landed where-ever suitable.

“The availability of good internal and external real time intelligence and bold and innovative execution of action plans, have enabled the small Sri Lankan Navy to do a good job. They have achieved more than what they have publicly announced,” a reliable source said.

Most of the multi-day trawlers had been seized in the Gulf of Mannar, between North West Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu. But the big ships had been taken hundreds of nautical miles south of Dondra, the southern most Sri Lankan point, Com.Dassanayake said.

However, some analysts say that while some of the big ships destroyed ( like the three off Sumatra) were genuine arms smugglers, others might have been pirates roaming in the deep seas looking for prey.

Indian connection

Asked if there was an “Indian connection” in the illegal activity in the Gulf of Mannar off Siluvathurai and Arippu, an analyst said that many of the items seized were dual purpose goods which were not banned as such.

“Take ball bearings for example. They are good if they are used in bicycles but bad when used in mines! There is no law against manufacturing ball bearings and they are readily available commercially in India, as elsewhere. These may be bought and smuggled out. If there is an Indian connection it is just that the goods in question may have been manufactured or bought in India,” the analyst said.

But there is increasing surveillance by both the Indian and Sri Lankan forces. “There is a lot of policing in the sea between Sri Lanka and India. The Indian and Sri Lankan navies and the Indian Coast Guard are active, but there is no fool proof measure against smuggling,” he said.

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Already facing charges of large scale child recruitment, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam has now been accused of forcing families of every student who goes out of the Tiger-controlled area for higher education to give up one member for conscription.

Over 12 university students who “crossed over” made the accusation, said Jaya Pathirana, the Commandant in-charge of the Omanthai Entry Exit point connected to the LTTE dominated Wanni in the North.

The officer said those seeking higher education in the LTTE dominated area of Northern Wanni have been told to give either a brother or a sister to Tigers for recruitment to continue the war against the government.

Two youths from the same family arrived in Omanthai surrendering one of their brothers to the LTTE to continue their university education in the University of Ruhumu and Jaffna respectively, Pathirana was quoted as saying by the Daily News here.

On child recruitment, the LTTE last year asserted that it has strengthened its own Child Protection Authority with certain powers to investigate future allegations of underage recruitment and to take immediate action to release them.

The government has maintained that the LTTE was continuing to abduct children from Jaffna to be trained as fighters.

“As the indiscriminate abductions continue unabated, Jaffna families have sought protection for their children with many parents in the peninsula starting to hand over their children under the custody of the Human Right’s Commission (HRC),” a statement said.

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Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) Tuesday said a roaming patrol of their border security combatants on Monday evening gunned down two Sri Lanka Army (SLA) Deep Penetration Unit (DPU) intruders inside LTTE controlled Valaignan Kaddu area in Mannaar district. Arrangements were underway to hand over the dead bodies of the SLA soldiers through the ICRC, informed sources in Vanni said. The Tigers have lost a combatant in the counter-ambush. A Claymore mine, two T-56 assault rifles, one remote control for the Claymore mine, one smoke bomb, two holders and two military kit bags were recovered by the LTTE.

The SLA operated ambush units known as Deep Penetration Units (DPUs) are officially named Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) units, a borrowed terminology from the LRRP/Ranger detachments deployed for covert operations by the U.S. military during the Vietnam war.

The Sri Lankan LRRP units are increasingly deployed to attack civilian vehicles in addition to military targets in the LTTE territory.


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This month marks 20 years since the Indian Peace Keeping Force launched ‘Operation Pawan‘ against the Tigers in response to their mortar and machine gun attacks on IPKF patrols. The only photo-journalist present in the combat zone at the height of the battle for Jaffna was India Today’sShyam Tekwani. Having been taken to Jaffna , by the LTTE, he was witness to actual battle scenes and obtained a unique insight to Tiger tactics, their weapons, morale and mentality. His cover story appeared in the India Today of November 15, 1987 under the title, ‘ Sri Lanka: A Bloodied Accord’ with a picture of an Indian soldier killed by the LTTE in Kokuvil.Now, two decades later with a wealth of experience with the Tigers behind him he draws attention to lessons that all governments fighting the terrorist menace had better learn if they are to effectively meet the challenge.

Presently Assistant Professor, School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, Tekwani’s exclusive reportage of the conflict has been published internationally.

Addressing the recently concluded International Conference on Countering Terrorism in Colombo, he said:

“To understand the significance of the regional security threat posed by the LTTE it is necessary first to examine the relationship between terrorism and new media technologies. The information revolution in Asia offers terrorist groups the same benefits and advantages that it extends to business enterprises in the region.

Increased globalization and rapid absorption of new media technologies into business practices has enabled the ongoing dynamic economic environment in many Asian nations. Just as business corporations in Asia are adapting their tactical and operational strategies to make the best use of new technology and the emerging global economy, extremist groups are doing the same.” Tekwani was speaking on ‘The LTTE’s online network and its implications for Regional Security.’

Tekwani recalled that the IPKF lost the media war against the Tigers having failed to win the confidence of journalists. It clearly proved the theory that terrorists understand the value of the media far better than governments.

He recalled that once when he returned from the battle zone after seven weeks he was amazed to read in the Indian press reports that were almost a total distortion of the real situation. He did not require much intelligence to realize that the LTTE had fed these newspapers with virtually fabricated stories.

“The LTTE branded the IPKF the ‘Indian People Killing Force’ and – sometimes – the ‘Italian-Parsi Killing Force.’ The latter was meant to personally ridicule Sonia (Italian) and Rajiv Gandhi (Parsi).”

Tekwani said that the Western media too had eagerly lapped up everything that the Tigers offered to them, since the former always loves any group that projects itself as the underdog, although the today the world is beginning to see the LTTE as an integral part of the international terrorist network.

“The Tigers are so clever in deceiving the young that when I show my students Tiger websites meant for different audiences the students are impressed and almost express support for the LTTE cause. But afterwards when I explain to them the organization’s background and who the Tigers really are they begin to think differently.”

He observed that one of the main factors affecting the Sri Lankan military’s handling of the LTTE has been dwindling morale, whittled away by the support the LTTE had garnered in its early years from the international community. This was in large part due to its international propaganda campaign, which capitalized on its status as a marginalized minority and used the propaganda to focus on the sufferings of the Tamils rather than the violence of its own actions.

“The LTTE continues to do so with considerable success on the Internet.”

In addition, Tekwani says, the LTTE has also ventured into cyber crime on occasion. He recalled that the Tigers had used the Internet to hack into Sri Lankan Government networks in 1997 – the first recorded use of Internet in the world by any conventional terrorist group. The Tigers are also reported to have used the Internet for criminal profit, as evidenced by the University of Sheffield case, which exposes the more serious issue of the Internet identity theft by terrorists.

According to him, the Tigers were also able to hack into the Sheffield University in England in 1997, and use the university computer system to send their propaganda and to engage in fund raising. And they did it in a covert manner. Having captured legitimate user IDs and passwords of well-respected university academics to disseminate e-mail communications around the world, they used those legitimate e-mail accounts and asked people to send money to a charity in Sri Lanka! While such instances are not yet the norm, they are undeniably the trend of the future. And the LTTE is nothing if not a trend setter in such tactics.

Tekwani regretted that the Sri Lankan Government – which many perceive as having lost the propaganda war with the LTTE even more thoroughly than it has the war on the ground – has no infrastructure legal or technical, to block access to LTTE and pro-LTTE sites within Sri Lanka even though the State has its own press, radio and television.

“This is a loop hole the LTTE has used well. In a related matter the creator of the ‘I Love You’ virus in the Philippines escaped punishment because the government there had no laws in place to prosecute cyber crimes. The situation is depressingly similar across Asia with the exception of perhaps Singapore. Asian nations are getting on to the information highway without any traffic laws in place…”

Tekwani noted that the LTTE was one of the first groups to use the Internet in its campaigns. The LTTE’s use of the Internet and other new media and communication technologies as an integral part of its campaign represents an emerging security issue in the region, according to him.

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Last week’s LTTE attack on Anuradhapura SLAF airbase was a major victory for the tigers. It delivered a severe blow for SLAF’s surveillance capabilities and had the Eelam Diaspora jumping up in joy. 1st flying training wing and 11th UAV flight were the squadrons that suffered most. At least 3 UAVs operated by 11th UAV flight were completely destroyed. More than 12 aircraft of the 1st flying training wing including K-8 advanced jet trainers with night flying capability, Cessna 150s and PT6 trainers were destroyed in the attack.

Previously, we reported that two Mi-24 gunships were seriously damaged in the attack. According to latest reports, one of them is damaged beyond repair but the other is repairable.

Destruction of the 3 UAVs delivered a major blow to SLAF’s aerial recon capabilities (however the entire UAV fleet was not lost). The loss may not be felt for long as several countries have come forward to aid the SLAF replenish its UAV inventory. Provided that everything goes well, several new UAVs might join the SLAF fleet as early as mid November. We have unconfirmed news that the new UAVs will be more technically advanced than some of those that were destroyed in the attack. Makes and models of the UAVs will not be published here as we do not know when/if that information will be made public.

Another major loss the SLAF suffered in the incident was the destruction of the Beechcraft surveillance aircraft. However the LTTE may not gain a long term benefit; Plans are already underway to repair the other Beechcraft which is currently grounded due to a technical failure.

Meanwhile India has come forward to supply the Sri Lankan armed forces with anti aircraft guns. India previously provided an air defense radar to facilitate early detection of LTTE’s  low flying Cessna 150 light aircraft. Although the Indian radar at Vavuniya AFB detected the LTTE aircraft, absence of an effective strategy to counter such a detection helped the aircraft to escape unharmed.

Several pro LTTE media featured stories regarding how the LTTE aircraft shot down the SLAF Bell-212. We can confirm that all such stories are false and according to our information Bell-212 was shot down from ground based AA fire directed from Anuradhapura Airbase (high likelihood of a friendly fire incident).

SLAF may recover quickly from these losses with the help promised by foreign counties. However none of these replacements come free of charge. And the lives of SLAF personnel that were lost in the incident can never be replaced.  Military Intelligence has already warned that future LTTE targets include the Minneriya AFB (Helicopter gunships are parked here) and Palaly AFB (Major supply hub for Jaffna peninsula). Therefore SLAF must take steps to ensure that effects of future terrorist attacks are minimized.


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DefenceWire has received startling information on the possibility of LTTE acquiring stealth technology from North Korea. Earlier we highlighted the possibility of LTTE acquiring Fiber Reinforced Plastic (FRP) submarine manufacturing technology from the same country. The Japanese Sankei Shimbun newspaper highlighted in September this year how a North Korean vessel was seized in the Indian Ocean while transporting weapons to the LTTE.

Our South Korean Defence Experts claim that North Korea obtained a basic type of Radar Absorbent Material (RAM) technology before the 1980s from an unknown source. Given the current economic crisis and North Korea’s history of selling weapons to third-parties, there is a high likelihood of technology transfer to the Tigers from North Korea.

Radar Absorbent Materials come in many forms and can vary depending on the type of frequency absorbed. This process is not fool-proof and depends on the Radar Cross Section (RCS) or the ability of the object to reflect the Electro-magnetic Waves being directed at it by RADAR.

The LTTE uses crudely shaped fiber glass boats for suicide operations which are not the ideal geometric cross sections allowing better reflection and redirection of EmWs. Although the shape of a stealth boat is much more important than the material with which it is constructed, our sources indicate that a stealth submarine could be built without such shaping concerns using stealth paint. It has long been known that for midget size boats made with FRP, Iron Ball Painting can reduce RADAR visibility. There is no information to suggest that North Korea obtained a perfect Iron ball technology used by the United States on SR-71 Blackbird or F-177 stealth bombers. However, our South Korean defence expert has indicated that North Korea and China have procured a primitive type of stealth material technology using a mixture of Carbonyl Iron and Ferrite embedded in rubber materials.

The LTTE may have also acquire from Chinese suppliers Night Vision Goggles and GPS navigation, which are available for around 80USD, for their Zlin Z-143s. More sophisticated Night Vision and Navigation Systems like LANTIRN (Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night) used by the USAF F-16 Flying Falcon will be out of their reach. However, thanks to Google Earth, even civilians who have an internet connection can find a military base with the exact GPS coordinants, which used to be top secret.


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