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Archive for March 12th, 2008

The war between the Government of Sri Lanka armed forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) cadres has been conventional as well as unconventional.

A significant feature of the unconventional war fought by the government is the deployment of deep penetration assassination squads, known as Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols (LRRP).

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Parliamentarian Kittinan Sivanesan (51) was killed in a claymore mine explosion last week in the Kanagrayankulam region of the northern mainland, known as the Wanni. The area was under the control of the LTTE.

The LTTE accused the Army’s Deep Penetration Unit (DPU) of being responsible. This was promptly denied. Interestingly, the LTTE refers to the LRRP squads as DPU for some reason.

Instrument of war
The assassination of Sivanesan has once again focused the spotlight on the LRRP/DPU phenomenon that is becoming a crucial factor in the current war.

The LRRP became an instrument of war of the armed forces since the turn of this century. Basic modus operandi of the LRRP is for small groups to clandestinely infiltrate territory controlled by the LTTE and target senior Tiger leaders and key operatives. This is done in two ways.

One is to infiltrate Tiger territory through jungle routes, conduct an operation and return. Sometimes the operatives stay in safe houses within LTTE-controlled areas for days to do this. On other occasions they camp in the jungles and lie in wait for several hours to take on their target.

The usual method is to explode claymore mines with remote devices. In some instances timers have been used. Pressure mines too have been used on a few occasions. It is presumed that these attacks are planned and executed on the strength of precise intelligence.

The other method has been to co-opt civilians living in the Wanni to ‘plant’ mines and target Tiger leaders. This is done through bribery and coercion. In some cases, some LTTE oppressed civilians nursing a grudge against the Tigers have become willing tools.

The usage of hit squads to assassinate the enemy has been practised by different states and different armies in different situations. Despite the ‘heroic glamour’ surrounding these teams, they are, in essence, glorified assassination squads.

‘Legitimately’ sanctioned ‘illegitimate’ operatives.
Therefore, legitimate states and governments do not like to claim credit for these operations. Those involved in such operations are ‘legitimately’ sanctioned ‘illegitimate’ operatives.

Since they are usually controlled by Intelligence officials, these operatives are like spies in enemy territory. If successful they are rewarded ‘quietly’ within the organisational structure. If they fail or are caught in the act, they are disowned. They are ‘heroes’ who cannot be honoured publicly.

Propagandists may try and project these operations as romantic adventures but by their intrinsic nature, they fall under the ‘covert warfare’ category. So officially these acts are not publicised and are usually unacknowledged or denied.

There are other reasons too for keeping these operations and particulars of those involved under wraps. Those engaged in such operations do not want to publicise it because of concern that they or their loved ones may be victimised if identities are exposed.

The other is that those residents in enemy territory who were collaborating with the hit squads may be rendered vulnerable if more details were publicised. In addition, there is the danger of the enemy gaining insight into the methods used if too much publicity is given.

All these reasons necessitate an environment of secrecy around such clandestine operations. Globally, this is the usual practice.

This was how Sri Lanka too conducted these operations in the beginning, during the Chandrika Kumaratunga regime. When Tiger leaders were being targeted and the LTTE began accusing state backed DPUs, the government officially denied responsibility. Instead, state propaganda blamed internal squabbles within the LTTE.

It was the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) of 2002 which first ‘admitted’ officially to the existence of the LRRP by stating in the CFA that all such activity would cease.

Then came the bizarre drama where a so-called ‘safe house” of the LRRP was raided in Millennium City, Athurugiriya, and five occupants were arrested. After protracted wrangling, they were released.

Balagalle’s brainchild
It is said that the LRRP was a brainchild of former Army Commander Lionel Balagalle, who had conceived the project earlier as the Head of Military Intelligence. The green light was given during Kumaratunga’s second presidential term.

When the LRRP teams came into existence, three different agencies were involved in setting them up and running them.

Fundamentally, the LRRP teams were a combination of disgruntled ex-Tigers, members of anti-Tiger Tamil groups, Muslim militants and carefully selected Sinhala personnel. They were given highly specialised ‘Commando’ type training here and abroad.

The first phase of LRRP operations commenced in 2001 in both the northern and eastern Tiger-controlled regions.

Among those killed in the east were Batticaloa District Intelligence Head Lt. Col Nizam LTTE, LTTE Batticaloa-Ampara Communications Chief Major Mano and artillery specialists Major Sathiyaseelan and Capt. Thevathasan. Among those killed in the north were LTTE Air Wing Head Col. Shankar and Sea Tiger Commander Lt. Col Kangai Amaran.

Of those who narrowly escaped death at the hands of the LRRP in the north then were former Political Commissar Brig. Suppiah Paramu Thamilselvan (twice), his Deputy Major S. Thangan, Vavuniya Special Commander Col. Jeyam and Deputy Military Chief Col. Balraj.

Of those who escaped death in the east were former Regional Chief Col. Karuna, Eastern Political Commissar Karikalan, Jeyanthan Regiment Chief Jim Kelly Thatha and Regional Intelligence Chief Lt. Col. Ramaan.

LTTE out for blood
LRRP activity was shelved after the ceasefire. Most of the Tamil LRRP operatives had been absorbed into Army ranks. The LTTE was out for their blood. Some of these men were allegedly betrayed to the LTTE by influential persons for large amounts of money.

On January 16, 2002, V. Vidyarathan, alias ‘Mike,’ head of the Paramilitary Intelligence Unit of the Army’s LRRP was seized by the LTTE and executed four days later . On February 10, 2002, Lance Corporal “Clarry” was abducted and killed by the Tigers.

On July 3, 2002, Lance Corporal Saundrarajan was captured by the LTTE and later killed. On December 11, 2002, Corporal Ganeshamoorthi, alias Thilakaraj, was killed. Lance Corporal Pulendrarasa was killed on January 3, 2003. Corporal Kadirgamathamby Ragupathi, alias Ragu, was shot dead in Colombo on March 18, 2003.

On April 26, 2003, Lance Corporal Kalirasa Devarasa was killed by the LTTE in Dehiwala, just 45 minutes after leaving the Army Transition Camp at Kohuwala. Lance Corporal Paramanathan Ravindrakumar was shot on July 15, 2003 but survived the attack.

Apart from these Tamil LRRP operatives, the Tigers also targeted important members of the Tamil armed groups collaborating with the Army and described by the LTTE as paramilitaries.

Sinnathambi Ranjan alias Varadan who led a breakaway TELO group working with the Army was shot dead at Aaraiyampathy.

More importantly PLOTE Mohan, who led the PLOTE faction, working with the security forces, was shot dead in Colombo.

Razeek, the chief of the EPRLF faction, working with the Army, was killed by the LTTE during the war itself when a suicide bomber targeted him in Batticaloa town.

LRRP renaissance
It appeared that the LRRP was now toothless as the key Tamil operatives who knew Tiger terrain and acted as guides, pathfinders, safe house providers and information gatherers were either eliminated or had fled abroad. But the LRRP concept experienced a renaissance when the ceasefire unravelled.

The election of Mahinda Rajapaksa as President and the appointment of Sarath Fonseka as Army Chief and Gotabhaya Rajapaksa as Defence Secretary brought about a qualitative change in the security situation. With the LTTE playing into Colombo’s hands, a determined no-holds-barred war effort was underway.

The revival of the LRRP was a key element in this new war strategy. Some of the hibernating old timers were recalled. Fresh input was gained through the induction of the LTTE breakaway faction headed by Karuna. Some other northern LTTE deserters were also inducted.

The PLOTE, possessing some clout in Vavuniya, also contributed some input. Above all, there were now several highly trained ‘Sinhala’ operatives with knowledge and experience of the jungle terrain.

The usage of LRRP squads became a powerful weapon in the security force arsenal. Recent events indicate that these squads have developed into killing machines of devastating efficiency.

These ‘new’ LRRP teams have been in operation for quite some time now. There have been successes and failures and also ‘un-claimable successes.’

Tit for tat
Chief among the claimed successes was the killing of LTTE Military Intelligence Head Shanmuganathan Ravichandran alias Col. Arulvendhan, a.k.a. Charles, who was killed in Mannar District on January 5, this year.
Apart from this, the LRRP has targeted several other LTTE leaders too. One of those targeted and injured was Lt. Col. Kumaran, who was manning defences in the Manal Aaru/Weli Oya region.

There have been also incidents where civilians have been victimised through LRRP activity.

In most cases these were ‘accidents,’ though there are a few deliberate acts perpetrated as tit for tat. Meeting terror by terror is part of this government’s counter-terrorism strategy.

For instance, a school bus carrying schoolgirls was targeted in Mannar as revenge for the LTTE attacking a bus with schoolchildren in Moneragala.

Likewise, the killing of the TNA’s Sivanesan on the way to Mallavi can be construed as quid pro quo for D.M. Dassanayake’s killing on the way to Kotte.
But these acts, though ‘successful,’ will always be ‘un-claimable’ and denied due to politically negative consequences.

There have also been instances where ambulance vehicles were targeted by LRRP groups. Apparently, there was method in this madness, as the LTTE was using ambulances to transport key leaders.

There was also the incident where a vehicle carrying women and children was land-mined near Silavathurai in Mannar when a military operation was in progress. This vehicle too belonged to a Tiger leader but tragically, many of his relatives were using it to flee the area.

LTTE under strain
The LTTE is under severe strain due to LRRP activity. One reason for LRRP successes is growing resentment within Wanni residents against the LTTE. Some are clandestinely helping the LRRP. The LTTE Intelligence Division is trying hard to check this and hundreds of Tamils were detained and interrogated.

In one case an entire family was executed on charges of accommodating LRRP members at their house. In another instance the father of a ‘Maaveerar’ (great hero) LTTE martyr was punished for allegedly being in possession of explosive devices.

The LRRP attacks, along with the precise aerial bombardment of high profile LTTE targets, have caused a sea of change in the LTTE way of life in the Wanni. Routes are changed frequently and no longer do important leaders travel in convoys. Clearing of routes is also done as much as possible.

The ‘Ellai Padai’ (border force) civilian militia, along with women’s brigades and Leopard Commando Units, are used to guard the borders. The extent of the area and jungle terrain makes these borders porous.

LTTE media organs used to mock leaders in Colombo for their elaborate security precautions and projected an image that they were living in fear. With the situation being reversed, many LTTE leaders are now resorting to drastic security measures and precautions for reasons of personal safety.

Underestimation
In a bid to stave off charges of LRRP complicity in the killing of Sivanesan, some defenders of the state have argued that it happened 22 miles to the north of Army control lines and was therefore impossible. These defenders, in their zeal to deny state responsibility, are actually underestimating LRRP capabilities.

In recent times there have been many LRRP operations deep in the interior of LTTE territory. This was the case when the LRRP was in its initial phase of 2001 too.

It must be remembered that the successful attack on Col. Shankar happened in Tiger heartland along the Oddusuddan-Puthukudiyiruppu Road in Mullaitivu District.

Lt. Col Kangai Amaran was killed in Aanaivilunthaan in Mannar District near Akkarayankulam in the Kilinochchi District.

The unsuccessful attack on S.P. Thamilselvan happened in Kokkavil in Kilinochchi District.

Compared to those, the Sivanesan incident occurred comparatively ‘closer’ in the Vavuniya District.

The current reality is that LRRP squads can proceed deep into Tiger territory from either the Mannar mainland jungles or the Manal Aaru /Weli Oya region jungles. They can also proceed parallel to the A9 highway on either side via jungle routes.

Those familiar with Wanni areas say that there are several footpaths and elephant trails crisscrossing the jungles that can be used, so LRRP teams going in deep is not impossible.

Demolishing the myth
What is happening now is that the invincibility myth surrounding the Tigers is being eroded. Also, the LRRP successes are demolishing the myth about LTTE terrain being impregnable.

But the man who made a mockery of Tiger territory impregnability was none other than former Deputy Defence Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte.

His helicopter crash-landed inside Tiger terrain more than a decade ago. Ratwatte, with his walking stick, and his service chiefs, walked eight miles to Army Forward Defence Lines (FDLs) safely.

It was then that the image of Tiger terrain impregnability was shattered first. Now, with successful LRRP operations, myth demolition continues.

(The bottom line)

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Dr. Pradeep Jeganathan’s dinner experience in Delhi with a French anthropologist reminded me a recent meeting I happened to have with a European high level diplomat in Sri Lanka. Referring to the recent events in Sri Lanka, he said: “I would be worried if similar things have happened in Balkans or even in India, but I am not worried at all for what is happening in Sri Lanka”. Is this a difference between an anthropologist who in Dr Jeganathan’s account was superficially worried about Sri Lanka and a diplomat who has been here for quite a long time but least worried about the Sri Lankan events? The diplomat in my story was rather angry as international community failed to tame the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL). Did my experience contradict Dr Jeganathandinner experience? I would say no. Two stories, in my view, reveal how the imperialist mind works with regard to the countries in the global South; they worry if they could control the situation and they become angry when they fail to do so. I am fully agree with Dr Jeganathan when he emphasized the need of situating the notion of R2P (a kind of SMS language for Responsibility to Protect) in the global context in order to understand it fully and properly. This is something to be highlighted since many who talked about polyvocalty, diversity and heterogeneity appear to think INTERNATIONAL as a homogeneous community. Since they cannot see such homogeneity in international community they identify it with the west.

In what context, R2P suddenly grew in importance in Sri Lanka? The GoSL has refused to extend resident visas of Dr Norbert Ropers and Dr Rama Mani for the year 2008. When visas are refused, explanations are not normally given. Although in case of Dr Ropers it was not clear why his visa was not extended, in case of Dr Mani, it appears that she was refused resident visa because of her involvement in R2P and GCR2P (Global Center for R2P). Dr Norbert Ropers is the Director of Colombo-based Berghof Foundation for Conflict Studies and Dr Rama Mani was the Director of International Center for Ethnic Studies (Colombo sector). It appears that the two decisions are taken separately, may be, for different reasons. In case of Berghof Foundation, the operation of organization was not questioned and it seems to be a decision only against its director, not against the organization. However, in the case of ICES, it is different. We heard that the state machinery including the CID had begun an investigation on the activities of the organization. Can this action be justified? What does these recent action by the government of Mahinda Rajapaksa signify?

Those who are familiar with my writings know that I am a persistent critique not only of Colombo civil society but also of the concept of civil society. I think the idea that a vibrant civil society is imperative to a vibrant democracy is an inflated one. In other words, in this part of the world the presence of vibrant civil society does not ensure democratic governance for two reasons. First, civil society in this part of the word has always been a small and elitist segment so that its influence is not wide-spread or deep-rooted. Secondly, civil society has been subjected to the ‘colonization of power and money’. Hence I always argue that many civil society organizations do have corrupt, non-transparent and undemocratic practices and hierarchical institutional structures. However, this critique does not imply by any means that the presence of civil society organizations is not of any significance. They played an important role in many fields. In this sense, ICES has done a significant contribution to Sri Lankan democratic discourse.

Let me also say something on R2P. After Gareth Evans’s Neelan Thiruchelvam memorial lecture, I browsed through World Wide Web and read about it. This may be relevant to the issue at hand mainly because R2P and the state security happened to be linked in taking an action against Dr Rama Mani and the ICES. This seems ridiculous to me. The notion that the international community should be given right or responsibility to protect people who are subjected to multiple forms of suppression and oppression and whose livelihood is threatened is of course consistent with fundamental normative values of humans. In my opinion, the notion of sovereignty should be subordinated to this basic normative value. The presence of such a responsibility may even be interpreted as something that engenders state security in the sense that states would be careful in dealing with its own population. Nonetheless, I propose that the concept of R2P has to be viewed critically. R2P is not an abstract concept; it is suggested to put into practice in the context that is characterized by the global dominance of power and capital. The recent statement of the German Minister of International Development that received so much publicity in Sri Lanka showed the arrogance of global powers and they continue to perceive global south as their backyard. So my criticism of R2P is contextual and what I emphasize is that R2P in practice may be another attempt by global political and economic powers to dominate the world.

In my opinion, there have been two forces at work that people in the global south should seriously take into account. First is the attempt of international capital with its institutions to constantly subjugate the countries that achieved formal political independence after the World War 2. Dr Jeganathan has lucidly and powerfully revealed how these forces operate worldwide developing new institutions bypassing the institutions of the United Nations. I may add that capitalist powers invariably try to use the United Nations and its institutions in order to further its own interests. However, we would make a serious blunder if we stop at recognizing and understanding the operation of this force while neglecting the second force that is in operation at local level. This second force is the post-colonial state that tries to suppress and oppress constantly its own population. The explanation of non-extension of visa to Dr Ropers and Dr Mani should also include this dimension. I would argue the Sri Lankan state has inflated the issues of R2P and the activities of INGOs for its own strategic reasons. The government of Mahinda Rajapaksa wants to silence all kinds of criticism in order to make the Sri Lankan state more authoritarian.

When we look at the issues taking into account these two forces at work, I believe that the attempt to see R2P as a conspiracy sounds satirical and totally out of proportion. So if government or its informants trying paint a picture that an invitation extended to Gareth Evans is part of a big conspiracy to threaten Sri Lanka’s security in the midst armed conflict are not only exaggerating but totally misled.

Secondly, the ICES has its own history. Its founder, late Dr. Neelan Thiruchelvam, contributed immensely to understanding the ethno-political conflict in Sri Lanka and the nature of Sri Lankan state. He was assassinated by the LTTE mainly because of his contribution to democratic discourse in Sri Lanka. ICES has followed the same tradition throughout its history and there is no sign of deviation from this long tradition. Has it suddenly become a fortress of conspirators? Was Dr Rama Mani made its director to carry out this conspiracy? Rather I prefer to conclude that the conspirators operate on the side of the state.

The Sri Lankan state is in a dilemma. It is in a war with the LTTE. It seems that Mahinda Chinthanaya perceives that it is not possible to withstand any kind of criticism while it is waging war against the LTTE. In my opinion this is a mistaken view. The government spokesperson tried to give legitimacy to its military engagement with the LTTE saying that it is aimed at liberating the people from LTTE’s authoritarian rule. However, war has pushed the government to deploy the same authoritarian practices. It supports directly and indirectly para military organizations. It is trying to centralize everything in the hands of the President by refusing to appoint the Constitutional Council so that all important appointments can be done by the President himself. The attack of the government on civil society organization in Colombo is a part of the process towards authoritarianism. The opposition parties have once again showed its impotency in countering this process. We need a social movement similar to what existed in the pre- 1994 period to counter the forces of money and power (using the Mandel’s term to denote capital and the state).

(http://www.island.lk/2008/03/05/midweek1.html)

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EPS – Elephant pass, known for its impregnable defences comprising sophisticated chain linked plexi glass blended by natural defences fell to the offensive LTTE ceaseless waves III formations on the 21st of April 2000. Since then Tamil Tigers have flooded into the Jaffna peninsula.EPS till 2000 remained as a permamnent impregnable cork to the Tamil Tigers alowing SLA maintain supremacy over the thin neck of land dominating all land communications between the LTTE’s Wanni bases and Jaffna. The EPS defences extended from Vettilaikerny and Iyakachchi in the North to Paranthan in the South and was spread well over 70 square kilometres complete with man made satellite bases with well complimented natural obstacles of lagoon and sea fronts forming a tactically complementary fortification. It was home to the 54th Division. In addition over two Divisions were deployed for its defence. How formidable and tactically sound these defences were established by the LTTE’s failed attack on that area in July-August, 1991, when it was under siege for nearly two months.

It still stood tall to wave after wave of tamil tiger cadres during the initial thrusts of ceaseless wave III until the MSR was cut off from Muhamale to Pallai. Although the base fell on April the initial assault on EPS began as early as November 1999. If the guerillas took on EPS in 1991 in a conventional style operation, ceaseless wave III saw EPS being cut off its MSR prior to commencement of the full frontal assault.

Because it secured the gateway to Jaffna – the cultural centre of the Eelam ethos, the victory of Elephant Pass is considered as the greatest victory ever in the history of LTTE in its struggle for the separate homeland, Tamil Eeelam. With the fall it gave the LTTE’s sea arm – the sea tigers unprecedented access to the coast spanning from Kokkutuduvai to Vettileikerni that facilitated them a greater capability of offshore movement to sustain maritime operations and logistics.

With the reversal of fortunes on the back of a revamped strategy there is much demand from the gung-ho Sri Lankan lay camp for a forward march towards EPS and bring the famed base back to its former glory. With just over 2 months away for the 8th year since the fall of EPS, with the current theatre of operations in mind; how feasible is it to march, hold captured ground and rebuild the formidable fortifications? Most of all, by doing so what strategic advantage would it bring to SLA?

Kilaly – Muhamale – Nagarkovil axis since 2001 has been the ‘national front’ or the new EPS of the security forces. The defences constructed along this axis is pretty much similar if not stronger compared to the defences existed at EPS.

With the advent of the divisions 57, 58 and 59 based at Southern Wanni the SLA have managed to put pressure on the LTTE’s southern front spanning from the Mannar rice bowl from West towards Kokkutuvai in the east.

The aim of continued marauding raids from the North and subsequent return to original lines means that it deprives the LTTE a much needed stable launching pad if the need arises to storm the Northern defences in a bid to capture Jaffna.

In August 2006 saw one of the bloodiest, fiercest multi-pronged fighting courtesy of the LTTE – code named ceaseless waves IV. It began with the LTTE concentrating on assault landings on Jaffna islets thereby using those as springboards to land at the coast of Jaffna thus flanking the Jaffna defences. At the same time another assault group was deployed to outflank the SLA defences of Muhamale and Eluthmaduval by assault landing at Kilaly.

For such a large scale operation the LTTE requires massive man power as well as large stocks of ammunition, especially indirect fire ammunition. This is something the LTTE are not enjoying at present. Thanks to marauding small scale group attacks the LTTE are pinned down all the way from Mannar to Welioya. Likewise by creating an ever hostile environment from the Northern front the SLA has managed to pin down the LTTE’s Northern formations in a defensive posture. This is always welcome news for the Jaffna command. Ever since the dawn of Eelam wars, this defensive posture of LTTE is something the SLA has never enjoyed.

Unlike in the East and Southern Wanni, the Northern FDLs are fixed with each facing the other across a no man’s land. This makes it a conventional FDL. If the SLA are to move ahead of their FDLs as they did on the 29th of January aiming to hold ground and subsequently march towards EPS, they need to negate the indirect fire threat positioned along the Pooneryn-Paranthan axis. One needs to bear in mind that the LTTE does not require its long range 130mm type 59 howitzers to target the area spanning from Muhamale to EPS. All it needs are its 120mm heavy arti mortars. One shell landing in close proximity to troops can account for 8-10 deaths. Hence to account for 100+ casualties all it takes is a dozen of such rounds. SLA have learnt their lesson the hard way especially on October 11th 2006. In my opinion before such a ambitious operation takes place SLAF and SLA’s artillery batteries needs to neutralise these indirect fire support of the Tamil tigers more than anything else. Given the fact that the lTTE has in possession over 100 of such T-86 120mm mortar guns and their past successes of the shoot and scoot manoeuvre, relying on neutralising such fire for the forward march is tactically unsound.

The other reason as to why it is hard for such a forward march is the fact that this sector is flat open land which provides no cover to advancing troops. The land is so barren that only small ground hugging twigs and isolated palmyrah trees grow. This makes conventional warfare the only tactic available for the men of 55/53 divisions. The highly successful unorthodox 8 man guerilla team tactics are suicidal on such barren open land. They can easily fall prey to ever so vigilant LTTE spotters (thereby mortars), snipers and booby traps. The thin isthmus of land also means that the tigers can employ bottle neck tactics where superiority by numbers does not account for anything. Even if SLA manages to dislodge the tamil Tigers from their first FDL (as they did on October 11 2006) they have to prepare themselves for the impending counter attack with little or no defensive cover making the hunter become the hunted. By opening up one single front allows the LTTE’s artillery/mortar units to cue its fire power on one area. The conventional tactics the SLA are forced to employ also means that this area is expected to hold a large concentration (troops/ground area ratio) of infantry men. Hence even if the Tiger mortar/artillery lacks proper accuracy it can still cause considerable amount of splash damage casualties thus stalling the forward thrust. This makes the front line armour run the risk of being isolated by the supporting columns. Moreover even if the forward thrust was successful in securing EPS, the thrust will have to continue up to at least Paranthan as part of its former impregnable defences in order to take out LTTE mortar units out of range.

This is the reason why an assault landing brought about rich dividends to both warring parties – first to Lt. gen Kobbakaduwa in 1991 and last to Balraj and his fighting formation who landed successfully at the Vettileikerni corridor (Part of the Vathirayan box) outflanking the enemy defences. Unless a similar feat could be pulled off, the EPS base will remain elusive for the SLA for years to come. Only time will tell…

(http://sf-3.blogspot.com/)

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Air raids and deep penetration units confine LTTE area leaders to command and control their fighting units from the safety of their bunkers, thus demoralising the cadres
The confrontations on the Wanni battlefield are intensifying by the day. As the LTTE loses strategic locations in Mannar and Madhu, advancing troops are gradually taking over Tiger bases. Even elements of the Radha regiment, that provide security to Tiger leader Prabhakaran, have begun to retreat.

Meanwhile, 29 civilians from Mullaithivu and Kilinochchi crossed over into government controlled areas. Eight families surrendered in this manner to protect their children from the LTTE. The LTTE now plans to conscript Wanni civilians by force for armed conflict.
Government should launch operations to liberate the Wanni civilians from the oppressive rule of the LTTE. A guerilla organisation can’t survive without public support and proper leadership. Now, Wanni area leaders don’t come to the battlefields for fear of air attacks and of the Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol. Tiger cadres in the battlefront are disappointed with the leadership that orders their sacrifice from underground bunkers. Even the people of the Wanni share their disappointment. And, if a national plan to win the hearts of the people is launched, the liberation of the Wanni could be accelerated.
While the security forces are trying to liberate the Wanni, according to analysts, now is the time to launch Military Psy-ops.

Americans used Military Psy-ops during the Gulf War. Four months before the beginning of the Gulf War, they launched a powerful radio station in Saudi Arabia and distributed thousands of radios among Iraqi civilians, introducing western music and thought to filter through to the public. It made Iraqi soldiers think less of the war and the sacrifice that they were going to make.

Similarly, the government could win the hearts of the Wanni civilians by airdropping leaflets and broadcasting programmes to educate the Tamil people and the LTTE cadres.
The LTTE cadres are becoming increasingly discouraged over the absence of their leaders Bhanu, Swarnam, Lakshman, Vidusha, Ramesh, Nagesh and Ratnam Master in the battlefield. This has made them run away from battles.

Today, the LTTE is losing both the support of the people and clever leadership. Prabhakaran, Pottu Amman, Soosai and other frontline leaders are limited to their underground bunkers because of air raids and LRRPs.

During the cease-fire, Military Intelligence reveals that several senior LTTE cadres got married, making them reluctant to leave their loved ones behind.

It is also revealed that Ramesh and Nagesh, who were top ranking military commanders in the Wanni, before the breakaway of Karuna Amman, are now building bunkers and constructing trenches in the North. LTTE cadres from the East, who were defending the Wanni, were arrested during Karuna’s breakaway. Now they have been released to the battlefront.

In the past the LTTE attacked in waves, which they are unable to do now.
58 Brigade under Brig. Aravindra Silva has been able to capture strategic areas. In an attack north of Manthai, the Army used MI 24 helicopters to attack the LTTE. And the infantry penetrated deep into LTTE strategic positions. Around 20 LTTE cadres were killed in these battles. Two soldiers were also killed, while eight others were wounded. The LTTE forcibly brought doctors from nearby hospitals to treat their wounded who were languishing in LTTE hospitals.

On the same day, the LTTE cadres attacked using 122 mm cannons. But after continuing this attack, for about two weeks, the LTTE had run out of ammunition. But, there was suspicion that they had been re-supplied with ammunition. The Air Force attacked them, using Kaffir jets. On the same day Mangalesh aka Balasundaram Aravindan, who was the second in command of the LTTE naval wing, was killed in Mannar. The army was able to confirm this through intercepting LTTE communications.

Sri Lankan Army was able to capture the LTTE forward defense line in the North of Paalakkudi, Mannar. 32 LTTE cadres died while, 47 were wounded according to intercepted LTTE communications. The 12th and the 6th Gemunu regiments were involved in this battle. Although several LTTE leaders including Bhanu and Lakshman ordered the LTTE cadres not to yield ground, the LTTE cadres engaged in battle were unable to thwart the determined attacks of the Sri Lankan Army.

The LTTE suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Singhe regiment, last November. This was a severe blow for the LTTE.

The 11th and 12th infantry of Gajaba Regiment was able to apprehend anther bunt of Yodawawa. The Maffelwatte area, which is in the north of Yodawawa, was also captured by the army.

Meanwhile the 57th infantry, which was under Brigadier Jagath Dias, was coming closer to Madu and Paltapided, slowly. The military was able to capture several bunkers in Periyakachan. At the same time the 59th regiment, which was under brigadier Nandana Udawatha, was attacking the LTTE bunkers in Valioya.

Meanwhile the LTTE was continuing setting up death traps in the Wanni battlefields to stop the advancement of the army. ( LTTE has plans to mix sciaenid into land mines. The motive of the LTTE is to kill soldier by poisoning him)

On March 3rd two captains, one from the Gemunu Regiment and the other from Armoured Division, who had gone to inspect the battle field, were caught in an anti-personnel landmine and lost their legs. Captain Keerthi, one of the officers, died suddenly. The army believes that the anti-personnel mine was poisoned.

The government should not let its guard down in Colombo. The current security arrangements are not adequate. Anyone can move through a checkpoint by just producing an ID. The security forces should be more careful because it has been revealed that LTTE is forging national IDs. Considering these developments new technologies like barcodes should be introduced to the national ID.

The government spends a lot of money to protect government ministers. They should also spend money on technologies that ensure the safety of the public like scanners. These scanners are very expensive as a result plans to buy them were halted. According to intelligence reports the LTTE has identified several security lapses in Colombo. The LTTE has used their agents who have also ‘bought’ several police officers. One inspector revealed of a plot to kill the President. Therefore the time has come where members of the army should also be investigated. This is because there are several security forces personnel who work for the LTTE. Therefore new security arrangements should be made to protect the VIPs, the general public and economic hubs.

Army Commander Lt. General Sarath Fonseka said that the Indian government has commended the Sri Lankan government’s war on terrorism. It has pledged its continuous support. The army Commander received a warm welcome when he visited India. He met Indian Defense Minister A.K. Anthony, Defence Secretary Vijay Singh, General Deepak Kafoor, Charlie Homy, Air Chief Marshal and Admiral Suresh Mehtha the Navy Commander. They discussed the present security situation and also future plans.

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The war between the Government of Sri Lanka armed forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) cadres has been conventional as well as unconventional.

A significant feature of the unconventional war fought by the government is the deployment of deep penetration assassination squads, known as Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols (LRRP).

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Parliamentarian Kittinan Sivanesan (51) was killed in a claymore mine explosion last week in the Kanagrayankulam region of the northern mainland, known as the Wanni. The area was under the control of the LTTE.

The LTTE accused the Army’s Deep Penetration Unit (DPU) of being responsible. This was promptly denied. Interestingly, the LTTE refers to the LRRP squads as DPU for some reason.

Instrument of war
The assassination of Sivanesan has once again focused the spotlight on the LRRP/DPU phenomenon that is becoming a crucial factor in the current war.

The LRRP became an instrument of war of the armed forces since the turn of this century. Basic modus operandi of the LRRP is for small groups to clandestinely infiltrate territory controlled by the LTTE and target senior Tiger leaders and key operatives. This is done in two ways.

One is to infiltrate Tiger territory through jungle routes, conduct an operation and return. Sometimes the operatives stay in safe houses within LTTE-controlled areas for days to do this. On other occasions they camp in the jungles and lie in wait for several hours to take on their target.

The usual method is to explode claymore mines with remote devices. In some instances timers have been used. Pressure mines too have been used on a few occasions. It is presumed that these attacks are planned and executed on the strength of precise intelligence.

The other method has been to co-opt civilians living in the Wanni to ‘plant’ mines and target Tiger leaders. This is done through bribery and coercion. In some cases, some LTTE oppressed civilians nursing a grudge against the Tigers have become willing tools.

The usage of hit squads to assassinate the enemy has been practised by different states and different armies in different situations. Despite the ‘heroic glamour’ surrounding these teams, they are, in essence, glorified assassination squads.

‘Legitimately’ sanctioned ‘illegitimate’ operatives.
Therefore, legitimate states and governments do not like to claim credit for these operations. Those involved in such operations are ‘legitimately’ sanctioned ‘illegitimate’ operatives.

Since they are usually controlled by Intelligence officials, these operatives are like spies in enemy territory. If successful they are rewarded ‘quietly’ within the organisational structure. If they fail or are caught in the act, they are disowned. They are ‘heroes’ who cannot be honoured publicly.

Propagandists may try and project these operations as romantic adventures but by their intrinsic nature, they fall under the ‘covert warfare’ category. So officially these acts are not publicised and are usually unacknowledged or denied.

There are other reasons too for keeping these operations and particulars of those involved under wraps. Those engaged in such operations do not want to publicise it because of concern that they or their loved ones may be victimised if identities are exposed.

The other is that those residents in enemy territory who were collaborating with the hit squads may be rendered vulnerable if more details were publicised. In addition, there is the danger of the enemy gaining insight into the methods used if too much publicity is given.

All these reasons necessitate an environment of secrecy around such clandestine operations. Globally, this is the usual practice.

This was how Sri Lanka too conducted these operations in the beginning, during the Chandrika Kumaratunga regime. When Tiger leaders were being targeted and the LTTE began accusing state backed DPUs, the government officially denied responsibility. Instead, state propaganda blamed internal squabbles within the LTTE.

It was the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) of 2002 which first ‘admitted’ officially to the existence of the LRRP by stating in the CFA that all such activity would cease.

Then came the bizarre drama where a so-called ‘safe house” of the LRRP was raided in Millennium City, Athurugiriya, and five occupants were arrested. After protracted wrangling, they were released.

Balagalle’s brainchild
It is said that the LRRP was a brainchild of former Army Commander Lionel Balagalle, who had conceived the project earlier as the Head of Military Intelligence. The green light was given during Kumaratunga’s second presidential term.

When the LRRP teams came into existence, three different agencies were involved in setting them up and running them.

Fundamentally, the LRRP teams were a combination of disgruntled ex-Tigers, members of anti-Tiger Tamil groups, Muslim militants and carefully selected Sinhala personnel. They were given highly specialised ‘Commando’ type training here and abroad.

The first phase of LRRP operations commenced in 2001 in both the northern and eastern Tiger-controlled regions.

Among those killed in the east were Batticaloa District Intelligence Head Lt. Col Nizam LTTE, LTTE Batticaloa-Ampara Communications Chief Major Mano and artillery specialists Major Sathiyaseelan and Capt. Thevathasan. Among those killed in the north were LTTE Air Wing Head Col. Shankar and Sea Tiger Commander Lt. Col Kangai Amaran.

Of those who narrowly escaped death at the hands of the LRRP in the north then were former Political Commissar Brig. Suppiah Paramu Thamilselvan (twice), his Deputy Major S. Thangan, Vavuniya Special Commander Col. Jeyam and Deputy Military Chief Col. Balraj.

Of those who escaped death in the east were former Regional Chief Col. Karuna, Eastern Political Commissar Karikalan, Jeyanthan Regiment Chief Jim Kelly Thatha and Regional Intelligence Chief Lt. Col. Ramaan.

LTTE out for blood
LRRP activity was shelved after the ceasefire. Most of the Tamil LRRP operatives had been absorbed into Army ranks. The LTTE was out for their blood. Some of these men were allegedly betrayed to the LTTE by influential persons for large amounts of money.

On January 16, 2002, V. Vidyarathan, alias ‘Mike,’ head of the Paramilitary Intelligence Unit of the Army’s LRRP was seized by the LTTE and executed four days later . On February 10, 2002, Lance Corporal “Clarry” was abducted and killed by the Tigers.

On July 3, 2002, Lance Corporal Saundrarajan was captured by the LTTE and later killed. On December 11, 2002, Corporal Ganeshamoorthi, alias Thilakaraj, was killed. Lance Corporal Pulendrarasa was killed on January 3, 2003. Corporal Kadirgamathamby Ragupathi, alias Ragu, was shot dead in Colombo on March 18, 2003.

On April 26, 2003, Lance Corporal Kalirasa Devarasa was killed by the LTTE in Dehiwala, just 45 minutes after leaving the Army Transition Camp at Kohuwala. Lance Corporal Paramanathan Ravindrakumar was shot on July 15, 2003 but survived the attack.

Apart from these Tamil LRRP operatives, the Tigers also targeted important members of the Tamil armed groups collaborating with the Army and described by the LTTE as paramilitaries.

Sinnathambi Ranjan alias Varadan who led a breakaway TELO group working with the Army was shot dead at Aaraiyampathy.

More importantly PLOTE Mohan, who led the PLOTE faction, working with the security forces, was shot dead in Colombo.

Razeek, the chief of the EPRLF faction, working with the Army, was killed by the LTTE during the war itself when a suicide bomber targeted him in Batticaloa town.

LRRP renaissance
It appeared that the LRRP was now toothless as the key Tamil operatives who knew Tiger terrain and acted as guides, pathfinders, safe house providers and information gatherers were either eliminated or had fled abroad. But the LRRP concept experienced a renaissance when the ceasefire unravelled.

The election of Mahinda Rajapaksa as President and the appointment of Sarath Fonseka as Army Chief and Gotabhaya Rajapaksa as Defence Secretary brought about a qualitative change in the security situation. With the LTTE playing into Colombo’s hands, a determined no-holds-barred war effort was underway.

The revival of the LRRP was a key element in this new war strategy. Some of the hibernating old timers were recalled. Fresh input was gained through the induction of the LTTE breakaway faction headed by Karuna. Some other northern LTTE deserters were also inducted.

The PLOTE, possessing some clout in Vavuniya, also contributed some input. Above all, there were now several highly trained ‘Sinhala’ operatives with knowledge and experience of the jungle terrain.

The usage of LRRP squads became a powerful weapon in the security force arsenal. Recent events indicate that these squads have developed into killing machines of devastating efficiency.

These ‘new’ LRRP teams have been in operation for quite some time now. There have been successes and failures and also ‘un-claimable successes.’

Tit for tat
Chief among the claimed successes was the killing of LTTE Military Intelligence Head Shanmuganathan Ravichandran alias Col. Arulvendhan, a.k.a. Charles, who was killed in Mannar District on January 5, this year.
Apart from this, the LRRP has targeted several other LTTE leaders too. One of those targeted and injured was Lt. Col. Kumaran, who was manning defences in the Manal Aaru/Weli Oya region.

There have been also incidents where civilians have been victimised through LRRP activity.

In most cases these were ‘accidents,’ though there are a few deliberate acts perpetrated as tit for tat. Meeting terror by terror is part of this government’s counter-terrorism strategy.

For instance, a school bus carrying schoolgirls was targeted in Mannar as revenge for the LTTE attacking a bus with schoolchildren in Moneragala.

Likewise, the killing of the TNA’s Sivanesan on the way to Mallavi can be construed as quid pro quo for D.M. Dassanayake’s killing on the way to Kotte.
But these acts, though ‘successful,’ will always be ‘un-claimable’ and denied due to politically negative consequences.

There have also been instances where ambulance vehicles were targeted by LRRP groups. Apparently, there was method in this madness, as the LTTE was using ambulances to transport key leaders.

There was also the incident where a vehicle carrying women and children was land-mined near Silavathurai in Mannar when a military operation was in progress. This vehicle too belonged to a Tiger leader but tragically, many of his relatives were using it to flee the area.

LTTE under strain
The LTTE is under severe strain due to LRRP activity. One reason for LRRP successes is growing resentment within Wanni residents against the LTTE. Some are clandestinely helping the LRRP. The LTTE Intelligence Division is trying hard to check this and hundreds of Tamils were detained and interrogated.

In one case an entire family was executed on charges of accommodating LRRP members at their house. In another instance the father of a ‘Maaveerar’ (great hero) LTTE martyr was punished for allegedly being in possession of explosive devices.

The LRRP attacks, along with the precise aerial bombardment of high profile LTTE targets, have caused a sea of change in the LTTE way of life in the Wanni. Routes are changed frequently and no longer do important leaders travel in convoys. Clearing of routes is also done as much as possible.

The ‘Ellai Padai’ (border force) civilian militia, along with women’s brigades and Leopard Commando Units, are used to guard the borders. The extent of the area and jungle terrain makes these borders porous.

LTTE media organs used to mock leaders in Colombo for their elaborate security precautions and projected an image that they were living in fear. With the situation being reversed, many LTTE leaders are now resorting to drastic security measures and precautions for reasons of personal safety.

Underestimation
In a bid to stave off charges of LRRP complicity in the killing of Sivanesan, some defenders of the state have argued that it happened 22 miles to the north of Army control lines and was therefore impossible. These defenders, in their zeal to deny state responsibility, are actually underestimating LRRP capabilities.

In recent times there have been many LRRP operations deep in the interior of LTTE territory. This was the case when the LRRP was in its initial phase of 2001 too.

It must be remembered that the successful attack on Col. Shankar happened in Tiger heartland along the Oddusuddan-Puthukudiyiruppu Road in Mullaitivu District.

Lt. Col Kangai Amaran was killed in Aanaivilunthaan in Mannar District near Akkarayankulam in the Kilinochchi District.

The unsuccessful attack on S.P. Thamilselvan happened in Kokkavil in Kilinochchi District.

Compared to those, the Sivanesan incident occurred comparatively ‘closer’ in the Vavuniya District.

The current reality is that LRRP squads can proceed deep into Tiger territory from either the Mannar mainland jungles or the Manal Aaru /Weli Oya region jungles. They can also proceed parallel to the A9 highway on either side via jungle routes.

Those familiar with Wanni areas say that there are several footpaths and elephant trails crisscrossing the jungles that can be used, so LRRP teams going in deep is not impossible.

Demolishing the myth
What is happening now is that the invincibility myth surrounding the Tigers is being eroded. Also, the LRRP successes are demolishing the myth about LTTE terrain being impregnable.

But the man who made a mockery of Tiger territory impregnability was none other than former Deputy Defence Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte.

His helicopter crash-landed inside Tiger terrain more than a decade ago. Ratwatte, with his walking stick, and his service chiefs, walked eight miles to Army Forward Defence Lines (FDLs) safely.

It was then that the image of Tiger terrain impregnability was shattered first. Now, with successful LRRP operations, myth demolition continues.

(http://www.thebottomline.lk/2008/03/12/BDBS%20Coll.htm)

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Sex, bomb makers and teddy bears — these are the details that make up the script of soap operas, not bloody and protracted ethnic wars.

But in the last fortnight, these are the details that have emerged from this island’s long and deadly war.

A top Tiger bomb maker found himself surrounded by government sleuths in his third floor room in Aluth Mawatha, Modera on February 29, early in the morning. With nowhere to run, Nadaraja Parami Wijendran alias Aravindan blew himself up and half the building he occupied.

Investigators were able to locate him following information first gleaned from two commercial sex workers. The two plied their trade on the dark alley-ways of Fort and one of their customers was one Nishanthan, a Tiger operative. He got caught and eventually led the police to Wijendran, an A-list explosives expert, according to investigators. Faced with capture, the Tigers are usually into the habit of biting into a cyanide capsule, but the 26 year Wijendran obviously wanted to destroy everything in his dingy room.

Unusual find

Four days after Wijendran blew himself up, the army reported an unusual find after troops had advanced into Tiger areas on the Uliyankulam-Andankulam Road, just ahead of Palaikuli.

Soldiers had recovered a brown teddy bear in one of the bunkers that they had just got hold of. The army said that among the other items that were found were small frocks, feeding bottles and soft toys, tiny plastic plates and spoons. Bodies of three female Tigers were recovered from the bunker and later handed over to the Vavuniya police.

The discovery that was not denied by the Tigers gave way to a multitude of interpretations.

“It is presumed those dead female Tiger cadres were either mothers of breast-fed infants or were women (mothers?) fighting while their infants are kept somewhere else or at home for protection, but their sentimental, motherly love was immense, no matter whether they were holding guns or bombs after they were brainwashed in terrorism.

“Another theory open to argument is that Tiger terrorists, after conscriptions and abductions, are in the habit of pushing all members of a family into bunkers to fight against the security forces, in order to achieve their so-called ‘liberation.’ It is believed these females were used to either bring in their kids into the bunker to cuddle and express their love, or the whole family comes to the bunker on and off, whenever the necessity arises, the army speculated.

“This can be a ploy of the LTTE terrorists to show the international community that the security forces had attacked civilians and killed them,” the Media Centre for National Security said.

More women cadres

The government military establishment has for sometime maintained that the Tigers had deployed loosely trained civilians into the front lines, especially in Mannar. They also said that women cadres were also increasingly seen in the bunkers. Late last year, Vidusha, the head of the Malathy unit, the main Tiger female fighting formation, too was in the Mannar battle lines to prop up morale.

A picture released of one the bunkers captured by government forces in Mannar had “Malathy Regiment” scrolled on its wall.

The discovery of the teddy bear aside, the military said that last week it had inched further into Tiger held areas. Soldiers had broken out of their forward positions near Palaikuli north of Uliyankulam, on a due east direction.

Two hours after the first assault, a similar foray was launched, this time on the Uliyankulam-Andankulam Road around 6 a.m. advancing towards another bunker line. It was providing cover to a place that was formally used as a tax collection point by the Tigers. Levy collection on goods and personnel passing into Tiger areas came to a complete standstill when the Uliyankulam crossover point closed down in September after the ICRC pulled out staff due to security reasons.

Strategy

On December 22 last year, government troops began the advance on the Uliyankulam-Andankulam Road by gaining control of the main Tiger entry/exit point. It has taken them almost three months to move up about 2.5 km on the road.

Government troops are now arrayed in a semi circle formation in areas west, southwest and southeast of Adampan junction that lies west of the collection centre. Two weeks back, troops had gained access to the north bank of Giant Tank.

On March 6, government troops gained control of the Parapakandal area, just south of the Andankulam junction. The troop movement indicates that the aim is to gain access to main roads that link to Adampan junction. They are mostly dirt tracks that were once tarred roads surrounded by thick jungle on either side. There are no civilian settlements to talk of and all those who lived in the areas have moved further into the Wanni.

As reported last week no outsiders have access to these areas — even UN agencies and the ICRC now stay away. They fall within the undeclared but very much present 15 km ‘no go’ zone adopted by aid and relief agencies along the Wanni southern FDL.

The thick jungle shrub also means that the paths are booby trapped and now according to the Tigers, heavily infested with snipers on their side. Last week the Tiger said that random explosions were slowing down government troop movement. “A Tiger commander from LTTE’s Mannar Operations Command in a weekly briefing to media told TamilNet’s correspondent in the Wanni that there were at least 23 cases of random explosions that caused casualties to SLA troops in parts of the Mannar frontline during the past week.”

“Six random explosions were reported within the past seven days in Chinna Pa’ndivirichchaan, nine explosions in Mullikkulam, five at Koayilmoaddai and three in Periya Pandivirichchaan area.”

“There have been further explosions in other parts of the Mannar battlefront such as the clash-intensive Palaikuli, he had further said,” according to TamilNet.

Air support

The teddy bear and the baby spoons were not the only new entrants into the Mannar battle front. In the last two weeks troops engaged in ground battles were provided air support by the MI-24 helicopter gunships.

The latest occasion when the MI-24 hind gunships assisted grounds troops was on March 5.

“In the Mannar front, SLAF helicopter gunships assisted advancing troops with close quarter manoeuvres launching rapid fire at fleeing LTTE columns in the general area of Vannankulama at 11.10 a.m. SLA citing intercepted LTTE communication said that at least five terrorists were killed in the attacks,” the Defence Ministry later said.

Up until now, the air force’s main task in what is now tagged as Eelam War IV, for easy reference on clashes since December 3, 2005, has been taking out Tiger leadership targets, reconnaissance and intercepting Tiger gun-runners in mid sea. In the last task the navy had played the major role.

Tiger leadership and command structures have been targeted by using high altitude jets that are harder to take out using anti-air weaponry, including missiles. There is so far no recorded downing of a jet by the Tigers since they scored their first success with the surface to air missiles (SAMs) in April 1995 by shooting down two Avros just outside Palaly. But they have shot down the low flying MI-24’s in the past.

Possess technology

Despite the global restrictions on clandestine sale of SAMs, the Tigers are suspected to possess the technology. On July 29, 2007, troops combing newly gained areas in Toppigala found an SA-14 Gremlin, a Russian manufactured SAM, left behind by the Tigers.

The Gremlin has an effective range of 4500 m or four and half kilometres and an altitude of 3000 metres.

“The (SA-14) Portable missile system ‘Strela 3’ is equipped with a small sized, solid, propellant guided missile. The missile has an improved system of overcoming countermeasures, increased range and flight altitude. It is developed for destroying low flying aircraft and helicopters. The missile can hit targets both in chasing and confronting headings,” according to globalsecurity.org.

It has a few additions to its older variant the SA-7. “The SA-14’s new nitrogen-cooled lead sulphide seeker allows it to home in on the exhaust plume of jet engines, turboprop and helicopter gas turbine engines. The enhanced seeker allowed the SA-14 to be fired against targets from much broader angles, as well as defeating countermeasures such as exhaust shrouds. Optical filtration was added to the seeker to reduce vulnerability to typical IRCM flares. The warhead of the SA-14 was nearly doubled in weight over the small warhead of the SA-7. The guidance electronics were reduced in weight and a new solid-propellant motor was introduced, compensating for the heavier warhead and improving aerodynamic performance.”

Suspicions

The Tigers are known to have used the Gremlin’s predecessor SA-7 and there have been suspicions that the Iraqi underground fighters have access to the more modern SA-16 Grouse and SA-18 Gimlet, furthering fears of still existent proliferation of SAMs.

The low flying helicopter gunships have also been susceptible to small arms fire, under the right conditions. The two best known occasions have been when the US variant of the MI-24, the Blackhawk was shot down in Karbala, Iraq on April 2, 2003, by gunmen using small arms and RPGs, and a decade before that in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993. The latter incident was the basis of the book and subsequently the movie, Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden.

One advantage the newer MI-24 acquisitions of the air force is the higher performance anti-missile systems.

While the gunships were engaged in providing ground support in Mannar, air force fighter jets targeted Tiger long range artillery gun positions in Kalmunai Point, Pooneryn.

The Tigers have used the 152 mm artillery, the heaviest in their armoury to target the Palaly High Security Zone. The Tigers are believed to use tractors and other heavy vehicles to relocate the guns, soon after firing them. The security forces have the capacity to locate artillery firing points.

The guns are also not parked out in the open and Tigers use underground locations for the purpose. Pooneryn, beyond Nallur on the Pooneryn-Paranthan Road is inaccessible to outsiders. The Tigers are also known to use dummy guns as decoys to mislead aerial reconnaissance.

Figures don’t add up

The government also said that 104 forces personnel had been killed and 882 injured last month. The figures were released by Leader of the House Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva during the parliamentary debate on the extension of the emergency on March 5.

He also said that 80 civilians had been killed and 201 injured during the same time period. The ICRC said last month that in its assessment, over 180 were killed and 270 injured in the first 42 days of this year. The going average of civilian deaths was at 30 per week then.

However the figures quoted by Minister de Silva and those by Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake on February 6, do not add up to the ICRC figures.

Wickremanayake said that between January and February 6, 73 innocent civilians had been killed by the Tigers along with 68 personnel from the armed forces. He also said that 468 armed forces and police personnel, and 110 civilians were injured.

According to government figures, in the first two months of this year 172 forces personnel have been killed and 1300 had been injured. During the same time 153 civilians were killed and 311 injured on the same count.

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I know what you must be thinking.  Maybe this article is going to be about police officers. Or fishermen. Toddy tappers, perhaps.  Soldiers would be the most obvious candidates for the award, of course.  Well, you’re wrong. According to a Sri Lankan NGO, research shows that one of the deadliest jobs in Sri Lanka is actually working for an NGO.

Law and Society Trust makes this surprising claim in a report called ‘Under Fire: Persons in Humanitarian Service’.  I went along for a briefing at their office in Colombo 7 on Friday.

Ruki Fernando opened proceedings with a bit of what he called background information.  The conflict, he said, has escalated.  In December 2005, Joseph Pararajasingham was shot dead in Batticaloa Cathedral, and then five students were killed on the beach at Trincomalee in January 2006.  Since then, he went on, things have gotten progressively worse.  Killings are now commonplace and displacement has also become a major issue.  The Government has deliberately created much of this misery, and official bodies are completely incapable of doing anything about it.  People, he finished up, have been left depending both for the basic necessities of life and for protection from harm on NGOs.

I summarise, of course.  But readers will get the picture.  The biased picture, that is, for it is hardly a reasonable explanation of either the current situation or how we got here.  But it is not the main point and we need not go into it now.

Dilshan Muhajarine then presented the main findings of the research.  NGO workers, he said, are under fire.  War is being waged against them as well as taking place between the belligerents.  Since 2006, he insisted, it has been open season on NGOs.

By 2007, 67 NGO workers had been killed in 37 incidents.  Of those, 93% were male, 78% were between 21 and 40 years old, and 85% were Tamil.  If you fall into those three categories, Dilshan said, you are an obvious target. Victims were involved in many different types of work, from administration to masonry.  The only common feature, he went on, is that they were all employed by NGOs.  In addition, 31% of the attacks happened in Jaffna, 30% in Trincomalee, and 25% in Batticaloa.  All of the victims, he underlined, were working in the North and East.  Action Contre la Faim saw 17 workers assassinated in the worst incident of the period studied, but perhaps more notable were the 11 separate attacks on the Danish Demining Group and the Halo Trust in which 12 employees died.  The Government has largely ignored these incidents, Dilshan concluded, and it appears that nobody has been convicted or even prosecuted for any of these crimes against NGOs.

I hope it didn’t take him long to come up with that.  Probably he has spent most of the last few months working on the beautiful tables, graphs and pie charts that accompanied this supposed information in an attempt to make it look scientific.  But it is nonsense.

Law and Society Trust doesn’t have any evidence that these crimes were linked with the work in which the victims were involved.  It hasn’t even looked into the question.  But NGO workers have private lives too.  If such a person is murdered by the husband of a woman with whom he is having an affair, should this be counted as an attack on an NGO worker?  It is laughable.  Or if he is killed because he is an informant for the LTTE? Again, this is clearly wrong.  Motive is vital, and avoiding it implies a desire to simply inflate the numbers to make the situation look as bad as possible, or to actually create a problem out of nothingness.

Ruki Fernando admitted when questioned on this issue that some of the NGOs involved had also expressed doubts about there being any connection between the killings and their NGO.  But he disagreed.  The Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies, he added, was not particularly helpful either and

hardly provided them with any information.  It is the biggest network of NGOs in Sri Lanka.  But Ruki was not dissuaded.  Opinions of people who might be expected to know better and who would obviously be concerned to do something about it were simply dismissed.  It is simply not research.

Meanwhile, University Teachers for Human Rights has looked into many of these crimes and what it has to say about them doesn’t fit with the theory about NGO workers.  Colombo 7 is a long way from the troubles in the North and East, it seems.

Law and Society Trust wasn’t concerned about who committed these crimes either.  It didn’t even think that this was relevant.  The Karuna Group has apparently had a hand in them, as have members of the Security Forces and the LTTE.  The Government has undoubtedly also covered up where it should have exposed, but it isn’t all powerful.  If the LTTE bombs a civilian bus in Colombo, is it reasonable to condemn the Government?  I don’t think so. If the Karuna Group kills one of its rivals in the East, should the Government be held responsible?  It’s debatable.  Culprits are important if the objective is to bring them to book and put in place measures to prevent such things happening again, rather than just to score points against the Government.

Somebody asked about the Vanni.  NGOs operate under far more restrictive conditions up there and they have reportedly even been keeping their staff hidden away inside compounds for fear of their being forcibly recruited by the LTTE.  Yet Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu did not figure.  Dilshan Muhajarine helpfully explained that they hadn’t included crimes where even the basic information on the victim and what happened to them wasn’t available, and that deftly ruled out all work on the Vanni.

Ruki Fernando brushed off these rather fundamental problems with a few sweeping statements about what he described as the urgency of the situation. We can’t wait for hard facts, he said, we have to take action now.  Hard facts, of course, are what we might have expected from the research. Instead, we were offered only rhetoric.  And taking action would seem to require know what exactly the problem is and who is behind it.  Urgency is not what the research shows anyway, because the number of attacks actually dropped by 44% between 2006 and 2007.

I imagine that the research was irrelevant. Law and Society Trust probably decided to push the idea that NGO workers are under attack because it feels besieged, not by any physical force but by the criticism that is now sticking like mud to NGOs.

Sri Lankans have long realised that there is nothing special about NGO workers.  They are, on the whole, just doing a job like anybody else. Some are more diligent than others.  Useful and useless work is done in varying quantities.  And it usually pays well.  A few people make real sacrifices for others, just as some people do in government service and in so many private sector jobs, and they all deserve to be honoured for their efforts. But these are individuals.  NGO workers are obviously not all like Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Theresa.

NGOs are also increasingly being accused of supporting the LTTE.  And frankly, after a couple of hours in Colombo 7, I can understand why somebody might say that of Law and Society Trust.  The LTTE would surely be happy about its latest effort at attacking the Government.  Law and Society Trust hasn’t drawn the slightest attention to LTTE complicity in crimes against NGO workers, and it has completely ignored the LTTE’s role in prolonging and then escalating the conflict in Sri Lanka.  The Government is its only target.  Law and Society Trust deserves this criticism, and nobody should mistake it for a threat to the safety of NGO workers.

Here’s a final thought: Sri Lanka is in the middle of a conflict, so the fact that people are being killed is not news in itself, and it wouldn’t be difficult to find rather more than 67 housewives who were done to death between 2006 and 2007.  But if an association of housewives had gotten their hands on a bundle of foreign funds, would they have decided to do a study on the number of their comrades killed in the troubles here, so that we would now be hearing that housewives were doing one of the deadliest jobs in Sri Lanka?  Or wouldn’t they have been so selfish?

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