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Archive for November 2nd, 2007

Judging by Sri Lankan government accounts of Tamil Tiger dead after decades of fighting, there should hardly be any rebels left.

Yet the guerrillas keep on fighting, and apparently dying in large numbers — pointing either to an unlimited pool of combatants or a government wish to boost morale by playing up its prowess on the battlefield.

Analysts suspect it is more a case of the latter.

“There is a huge propaganda war going on to show that more people are being killed,” said defence analyst Namal Perera.

“The new battlefield is the media.”

Retired army colonel Susantha Seneviratne agreed there was “an exaggeration of Tiger casualties,” after a week in which the government has reported around a dozen dead each day.

“This is not unique to Sri Lanka. Almost every army in the world does it,” he said. “It is to help maintain morale.”

There is no independent verification of casualties and journalists are not allowed to travel to the rebel mini-state in the north or the frontline, but experts and analysts agree the government figures do not add up.

Sri Lanka’s chief military spokesman, Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara, insisted official figures only had a margin of error of “about 10 percent”.

“Sometimes ground troops might see a terrorist falling and count him as dead, but he may only be seriously wounded,” Nanayakkara explained.

“If we get the information from (Tiger) radio communications, then the numbers are accurate.”

Although government forces have made major progress in battling the Tigers over the past year, including ousting them from their last stronghold in the east, there have been embarrassing setbacks.

In March the Tigers, who are fighting for an independent homeland, carried out their first air strike on Sri Lankan forces using what were believed to be two training planes smuggled into the island in bits and flown from a jungle air strip.

Last week, an elite suicide squad of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) infiltrated a key air base and virtually wiped out the fleet of spy planes used to spot rebel movements and bases.

Since then the defence ministry has been producing a handsome Tamil Tiger body count, while government troops barely suffer a scratch.

The security forces say they killed 3,284 Tiger rebels between December 2005, when a Norwegian-brokered truce began falling apart, and September this year.

Independent estimates put the size of the LTTE force at between 5,000 and 12,000 men and women — meaning that at this rate of killing they should soon be running out of recruits.

Senior officials have in the past claimed there were only 500 Tiger rebels left, or that 85 percent of the guerrilla army had been wiped out.

“Statistics that lie in defence of the realm,” the pro-opposition Leader newspaper said in a recent headline, citing the government claims.

“The defence ministry is… lying to the people by detailing exaggerated figures of the number of Tigers killed to achieve petty short term political objectives.”

The defence ministry has now removed the overall tally of rebel dead from its website, but still gives a hefty daily toll.

Sunanda Deshapriya, director at the private Centre for Policy Alternatives think-tank, said the figures were clearly being massaged.

“By projecting a high number of people killed the parties have reduced the value of life,” Deshapriya said.

“Killings are now generally accepted by society as a done thing, and the more the merrier.”

According to Seneviratne, who writes on defence issue in local newspapers, the high Tiger casualties claimed by the military could backfire.

“When the fighting has been going on for so long and after claiming such heavy losses if you still can’t beat them, then there is a credibility issue,” Seneviratne told AFP.

“The high losses indicate that they (the Tigers) have committed fighters ready to die for a cause… You only give the impression that they are a very large force. They are not.”

The LTTE releases its overall death toll in the last week of November, when it observes a “heroes week” to commemorate the war dead.

Last year, they paid respects to 18,742 cadres killed since 1982.

Independent analysts believe that overall, government forces have suffered similar losses.

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Tamil Tiger guerrillas on Friday said they had beaten back two attacks by government forces in northern Sri Lanka with the loss of seven of their own fighters.

The rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said there were two attempts by government forces to break into territory they hold and both were thwarted.

In the heaviest fighting along the Wanni sector, the Tigers said they estimated military losses at 25 killed and 60 wounded on Thursday, but the military placed their losses at two killed and 12 wounded.

The military had also claimed killing 22 Tigers in the same sector and said security forces captured the bodies of eight guerrillas. The LTTE reported losing only seven fighters there.

Independent verification of claims and counter claims over battle field casualties is rarely possible in Sri Lanka.

The latest attacks came just over a week after a Tiger suicide squad managed to virtually wipe out Sri Lanka’s fleet of spy planes in an attack on an air base at Anuradhapura, north of the capital.

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Bombing to kill S.P. Tamilselvan, Political Head of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam was based on the intelligence report received from reliable intelligence sources, confirms a senior Air force official. He added that Air force received intelligence report in time about the LTTE gathering place as well as about the meeting to be held today morning.Senior Air Force official further said accordingly Air force MIG jets bombed today morning around Thurivaiaru, Kilinochchi. Air Force official also revealed that the entire LTTE complex was destroyed.

How was it possible for the Air Force to receive accurate news about the time and venue of the meeting?

Is there someone within the rank and file of the LTTE to leak highly sensitive news which led to the killing of S.P.Tamilselvan and five others?

Or has the Sri Lanka security forces intelligence officers infiltrated into the rank and file of the LTTE, once considered an impenetrable Tiger outfit?

Will Pottu Amman and the intelligence unit under him be held responsible for this serious lapse?

Questions are being raised about the vulnerability of the Tiger outfit led by the aging leader Velupillai Prabakaran

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“Thamilchelvan was the public face of the LTTE and used to interact openly with media personalities and foreign visitors to his office. His location and the place of his residence were well known. keeping in view the decapitation operation launched by the SLAF last year, it is surprising he and his associates did not take the normal precautions such as changing the places of their residence frequently.”

S.Cheeran, Secretary-General at the headquarters of the LTTE, has announced the death of S.P.Thamilchelvan, the head of the Political Wing of the LTTE and five others in a decapitation air strike by the Sri Lankan Air Force on the residental complex of the members of the political wing at Kilinochi at 6 AM on the morning of November 2,2007. The news of their death in an air strike was uploaded in the web site of the LTTE (www.tamilnet.com) at 1 PM Indian time. One does not know at what time Cheeran made the announcement. Presuming the web announcement must have been shortly after the official announcement, the LTTE has taken roughly six hours to admit the successful execution of a decapitation strike by the SLAF.

For the last one year, the SLAF has been repeatedly trying for decapitation strikes on Prabhakaran and other leaders of the LTTE. However, these strikes were not successful. The killing of Thamilchelvan and his associates is the first success in the decapitation drive of the SLAF.

Thamilchelvan was the public face of the LTTE and used to interact openly with media personalities and foreign visitors to his office. His location and the place of his residence were well known. keeping in view the decapitation operation launched by the SLAF last year, it is surprising he and his associates did not take the normal precautions such as changing the places of their residence frequently. Since the LTTE does not have a radar and anti-aircraft equipment at Kilinochi, the only way of protecting them was through precautions such as frequent changes of place of residence. Possible negligence in taking these precautions has cost their lives.

Since this was a targeted attack on senior leaders of the LTTE, the SLAF had every right to mount this strike, which did not target civilians. Till now, the LTTE itself has not alleged any civilian casualties.

The successful decapitation strike would be a morale booster for the SLAF after the set-back suffered by it recently at Anuradhapura where a squad of 21 Black Tiger commandoes, in coordination with two planes of the LTTE’s air wing, raided the SLAF base and destroyed at least eight aircraft/helicopers, including a well-equipped spy plane. No combat aircraft were damaged or destroyed in that raid. The SLAF’s combat capability is thus intact and it has used it effectively.

The successful air strike at Kilinochi will encourage the SLAF to re-double its efforts for a decapitation strike on Prabhakaran himself. He becomes more vulnerable to an air strike than in the past.

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Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam suffered a major setback when their political wing leader S.P. Thamil Selvam was killed in an airstrike today. His death occurred when SLAF 10th fighter squadron and 5th jet squadron’s ground attack aircraft bombed a suspected rebel base in Kilinochci at around 6 AM today. 4 other senior LTTE cadres who were at the base too are reported to be killed.

Although Thamil Selvam was the leader of LTTE’s political wing, he was recently assigned to the defense of the Pooneryn sector from a possible army invasion. At the time of his death, he was commanding a considerable number of LTTE fighters in the Pooneryn sector.

(http://defencenet.blogspot.com/)

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The LTTE Head quarters announced that the Head of the LTTE Political Division, Suppayya Paramu Tamilselvan, was killed in a Sri Lankan Air Force aerial bombardment today at 6.00am, LTTE has been confirms.

According to their official statement made by Seelan who is secretary of the Peace Secretariat, “with deep sorrow we announce to the people of Tamil Eelam, the Tamil people living all over the world and the international community that at 6.00am today, Friday 2nd November 2007, Head of our organization’s Political Division, Brig. S P Tamilselvan was killed by the Sri Lankan Air Force aerial bombing. With him Lt Col Anpumani (Alex), Major Mihuthan, Capt Nethagy, Lt Adchgivel, and Lt Vahaikumaran were also killed.

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The fighting along the northern front is increasing, with nearly 500 casualties in the last week. The air force is claiming five successful strikes in the last week, but there’s no way to confirm that. The October 22nd LTTE attack on the air force base, containing most of the military recon aircraft, will have an impact. The government is scrambling to replace those aircraft and UAVs, but this will takes months. Meanwhile, the armed forces will be fighting partially blinded. The military can rely more on their radio intercept units, which have been successful in eavesdropping on LTTE radio traffic, and deriving much useful information. Same with the growing informant network inside LTTE territory in the north.

October 31, 2007: The continuing crime and disorder in eastern Sri Lanka is largely caused by the large number of rifles and pistols available. This is the result of two decades of LTTE violence, and importation of firearms. This has brought over half a million illegal weapons into the country. When the LTTE was defeated in the east, not all the enemy weapons were captured. Many are now held by criminal and political gangs, as well as individual citizens. The same pattern is expected to emerge in the north, as the LTTE is cleared out of those areas. The illegal weapons will be a problem for decades.

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