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Archive for December, 2007

Sri Lanka’s military said on Friday troops had killed 35 Tamil Tigers in a series of land clashes in the island’s north in 24 hours as the death toll from renewed civil war climbs inexorably higher.

The army said troops battled the rebels in the northern district of Vavuniya on Thursday killing 25 rebels.

The military said it had also killed 10 rebels on the Jaffna peninsula, in Vavuniya and in Welioya town on Friday. It said one soldier was wounded in a mine blast in Jaffna.

The rebels denied any of their fighters were killed in Jaffna. There were no independent accounts of what had happened, and analysts say both sides tend to overstate enemy losses and play down their own amid a parallel propaganda war.

Later on Friday, the air force said it bombed a rebel position in the north but gave no details of casualties or damage.

“Air Force jets pounded a meeting place of LTTE terrorists in Puthukudiyirippu in Mullativu,” said Air Force spokesman Wing Commander Priyantha Weerasinghe.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who are seeking to carve out an independent state in north and east Sri Lanka, said in and email statement they had prevented military infiltration attempts in the Jaffna peninsula on both Thursday and Friday.

“One SLAF (Sri Lanka Armed Forces) personnel was killed and at least five others sustained injuries… The LTTE front liners suffered no casualties,” said Tiger military spokesman Rasiah Ilanthiraiyan.

However the rebel statement made no reference to fighting in Vavuniya and were not immediately available for comment on the air raids.

The violence came after the military said it sank 11 rebel boats in a clash off the island’s northern tip on Wednesday killing around 40 insurgents, and after the air force bombed a suspected rebel naval wing base in the northeast on Thursday — the latest in a litany of confrontations.

The military has vowed to wipe out the Tigers militarily, and is seeking to drive the rebels out of the northwestern district of Mannar after evicting them from vast swathes of jungle terrain they controlled in the east earlier this year.

More than 5,000 people have been killed in fighting between the military and Tigers since early 2006 alone, taking the death toll since the war erupted in 1983 to around 70,000.

Military analysts say there is no clear winner on the horizon, and fear the war could grind on for years.

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Colombo, 29 October, (Asiantribune.com): 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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The sea going arm of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) were locked in a fierce battle off the seas south of Delft for nearly two hours from 12.45PM to 2.30PM today (26th). Both parties have suffered heavy casualties in the firefight with SLN losing 1 Dvora vessel and the sea tigers losing 4 of their attack crafts plus two suicide boats.

The battle erupted when the SLN intercepted a suspicious boat movement south of Delft coastline today noon. SLN craft were soon engaging with 14-16 of LTTE’s medium sized attack crafts when two explosive laden suicide boats rammed into one of the Dvoras causing a loud explosion. The Israeli built craft was completely destroyed and all personnel on board are feared killed. Another SLN Dvora sustained damages in the incident but it is said to be in repairable condition. LTTE too has lost four of its attack crafts along with cadres on board. This is in addition to the two suicide boats which rammed against the Dvora. Exact damages to LTTE hardware/personnel is not known as of yet as they have so far maintained radio silence since the battle.

Sea tiger boats retreated towards LTTE controlled waters in Nachchikuda region south of Delft after the two hour long firefight. SLAF MI-24 helicopter gunships too were called to the scene to provide fire support and to aid in rescue missions.

A Dvora is usually manned by 12-16 personnel while a LTTE’s medium sized attack craft is manned by 8-12 cadres. A suicide boat usually has two black tigers on board.

(http://defencenet.blogspot.com)

(more…)

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Over the last week, 25 from Sinhala villages were settled in Kadatkaraichenai, the so called High Security Zone, alleged Peace Secretariat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamileelam.In a statement, Peace Secretariat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamileelam, revealed that Kadatkaraichenai in Trincomalee was a thriving Tamil village less than a year ago. The Sri Lanka military onslaught on 2006 forcefully displaced the Tamil from this and the surrounding areas, it said.

The statement added that hundreds of Tamils were killed and injured by deliberate military artillery shelling in 2006, as the international community looked on.

Once the area was emptied of Tamils by such ethnic cleansing, the Sri Lanka Government declared the area as High Security Zone and prevented the original Tamil residents of the area from returning to their homes in their villages, underlined the Peace Secretariat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamileelam.

Peace Secretariat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamileelam in its statement went on to say as follows:

This development has all the hallmark of earlier Sinhala settlements in the east where by a Tamil village is emptied of Tamils through violence and then small number of Sinhala settlements is first created with minimal facilities. This settlement then gradually expands unnoticed.

In the earlier times Tamil people were chased out by large scale massacres carried out by the military. The massacre of Tamils in the Thiriyai a village in Trincomalee in 1985 and the subsequent conversion of the area in Sinhala settlement exemplify this tactic of Sri Lanka Government.

On 8 June 1985, Sri Lanka military came in vehicles to Thiriyai and told the people to leave the area before they begin shooting. After the people left, 1100 houses were burnt down. Following this incident, displaced people stayed in schools. Again on 8.August 1985, the Sri Lankan military attacked the displaced in the schools killing ten civilians. Again on the 14 August six civilians were pulled out of a bus in Thiriyai and hacked to death. Tamils gradually moved out of the area by the constant threat of violence by the military. The area thus emptied of Tamils was then gradually settled with Sinhalese.

No longer able to carry of such blatant ethnic cleansing, Sri Lanka Government is carrying out the ethnic cleansing under the pretext of fighting terrorism as the world looks on.

(http://www.asiantribune.com)

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Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Wednesday maintained that it is futile to hold talks with the LTTE as long as it is militarily not crushed.In a hard-hitting speech at a public rally in Matara town in the south on the occasion of the third anniversary of the tsunami, Mr. Rajapaksa said, “We are for a political settlement. But there is no point in talking about a political settlement without first defeating terrorism”.

He said the LTTE is not interested in negotiations and must be made to realise that problems cannot be solved through the barrel of a gun. He maintained that the Tigers must be forced to lay down arms.

He talked about the “victories” of the military over the LTTE since July 2006 and hoped to build on them. “Like we overcame the tsunami tragedy, we will face the threat of terrorism and overcome it soon,” he said.

Mr. Rajapaksa observed two minutes of silence at 9:25 a.m. to coincide with the first tsunami waves that killed 31,000 and displaced a million people.

He declared open the new Manama Bridge destroyed by the tsunami and constructed with a grant worth $7 million provided by the government of Korea.

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Sri Lanka’s navy destroyed 11 vessels of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, killing 40 rebels, in the latest blow to the movement that has been driven by the army from the country’s east and now only holds bases in the north. The battles with the so-called Sea Tigers took place yesterday off Delft, the largest island near the northern port of Jaffna, the Defense Ministry said on its Web site. Naval vessels spotted the Sea Tigers “smuggling warlike material” toward the coast, it said.

A naval officer was killed and 11 sailors are missing, the ministry said. The navy lost one vessel in the battle, TamilNet reported, citing the LTTE. Four Tamil Tigers died, it cited Irasiah Ilanthirayan, the group’s military spokesman, as saying.

Sri Lanka’s army is targeting LTTE naval and land bases in the north as well as its commanders. The government said last week if has information that rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was wounded in an air raid last month on the group’s headquarters at Kilinochchi in the north.

Air force jets attacked a Tamil Tiger training base at Mullaitivu in the northeast early today, according to the Defense Ministry. The LTTE was “conducting a special training session” at the site, it said, without elaborating.

Two rebel suicide boats exploded near a navy vessel after yesterday’s sea battle, damaging the craft, the ministry said. Air force helicopters attacked at least five other rebel vessels as they fled south from the battle, it said.

Land Battle

Army units and rebels clashed in the Mannar district in the northwest yesterday. At least 15 Tamil Tigers were killed at Pallaikuli, the Defense Ministry said.

Five soldiers died in fighting in the area when Tamil Tiger forces stopped an army advance, TamilNet reported, citing unidentified officials from the group.

The LTTE is fighting for a separate homeland in Sri Lanka, in a conflict that has killed 70,000 people in the South Asian island nation in the past 24 years. The Tamil Tigers have a force of about 12,000 fighters as well as their estimated 4,000- strong Sea Tigers unit. The army took control of the Eastern Province in July.

Peace talks with the LTTE, which is designated a terrorist organization by the U.S., the European Union and India, failed to make progress at two meetings in Geneva last year, resulting in an increase in fighting in the country.

The government rejects a settlement that divides the country and is offering to devolve power to some provinces. The Tamil Tigers say any peace agreement must be based on a separate homeland.

Defense Spending

President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in his Nov. 7 budget speech, vowed to “eradicate” terrorism in the country and increased defense spending by 19 percent to help combat the insurgency.

Sri Lanka may re-impose a ban on the LTTE that was lifted in 2002 if the rebels carry out more attacks, such as a parcel bombing in Colombo last month that killed 19 civilians, Rajapaksa said last week.

The ban was lifted in an attempt to boost peace talks between the Tamil Tigers and the government of then prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe that led to the signing of a 2002 cease-fire accord.

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Holding talks with the Tamil Tigers’ shadowy leader would be a blunder and there will be no peace unless he is killed, Sri Lankan militant-turned-minister Douglas Devananda has warned.

Social Services and Welfare Minister Devananda, a minority Tamil vehemently opposed to the Tigers, says he has escaped more than a dozen assassination attempts.

The last was on Nov. 28, when a female bomber officials say was sent by Tiger supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran made her way into his ministry in central Colombo.

Devananda was watching closed-circuit TV footage of visitors in the ministry’s offices and hallways when the woman blew herself up, killing one of his aides.

“Prabhakaran … is anti-human,” Devananda told Sri Lanka’s Foreign Correspondent’s Association late on Thursday, after showing journalists a recording of the attack. “You have to compare (him) with Pol Pot or Hitler … He has to die.”

“As long as Prabhakaran is alive, he won’t allow anyone to solve the problem (conflict) amicably,” he added. “If the president goes again for talks, it’s a blunder.”

Prabhakaran is infamous for his use of suicide attackers as part of his campaign to create a separate state for Tamils in the island’s north and east.

Devananda himself took up arms against the state with other militant groups in the late 1970s and 1980s. He remains at the top of the Tigers’ hit list.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa says the door is open to peace talks with the rebels, but his government has also vowed to wipe out the Tigers military.

Thousands have died in renewed fighting since early last year after a 2002 ceasefire pact broke down. The last round of a series of abortive peace talk initiatives fell apart last year.

Since 1983, about 70,000 people have died in the two-decade civil war and many hundreds of thousands have been displaced.

FUTURE CHIEF MINISTER IN NORTHEAST?

Devananda heads the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) and analysts say he has close ties with a renegade former Tiger commander who analysts say helped the government drive the mainstream rebels from their eastern strongholds.

He wants to be the future chief minister for north and east Sri Lanka.

“I have the right to be the chief minister of the north and east,” Devananda said.

He also wants the government and other political parties to decentralise power to provincial councils, rather than wait for divided parties to try to reach an elusive consensus on devolution.

“The Tamil people have grievances. They should be dealt with with a political package,” he said.

Devananda, who adopted the alias Douglas because it was his karate teacher’s name, laughs as he recalls a series of attempts on his life.

He was once forced to dive into the Palk Strait separating Sri Lanka from India in 1996 to escape a rebel attack and spent the whole night in the sea.

The minister, who founded the militant Eelam People’s Revolutionary Front (EPRLF), which later morphed into his political party, has no regrets about his own violent past.

He says killings he was responsible for were in self-defence. He also jokes about his former militancy and rivalry with the Tigers in the 1980s, when they were both fighting the state — and often each other.

“If the LTTE killed anyone from my organisation, I balanced that when I was in EPRLF,” he laughed.

Ironically, it is precisely through agreeing to peace talks that Prabhakaran could torpedo his foe Devananda.

“If tomorrow Prabhakaran comes genuinely for negotiations, I will give up politics and go, because I don’t want to be an obstacle,” he said.

“But the reality is Prabhakaran won’t come, and I won’t go.”

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