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Archive for April 10th, 2008

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The Tamil Tigers, a terrorist organization whose suicide bombings and political assassinations have killed 4,000 people in the past two years, have quietly established a U.S. presence to help bankroll and equip its brutal secessionist campaign in Sri Lanka, authorities said.

Formally known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and designated as terrorists by the State Department in 1997, the group has sought for more than three decades to violently overthrow the Sri Lankan government and create an independent state for the Tamil minority.

To that end, its political wing has established “branches” in at least 12 countries, including the United States, as part of a global expansion in which the LTTE seeks to purchase millions of dollars worth of anti-aircraft weapons, automatic rifles, grenade launchers, ammunition, explosives and other military equipment, according to federal law-enforcement authorities.

That expansion has included operations in Maryland, New York and New Jersey in an effort to help raise cash and procure weapons.

A criminal complaint filed in federal court in New York in April 2007 in the arrest of a senior LTTE member in the United States said he raised money and arranged meetings between U.S. financial backers and the organization’s senior leadership in Sri Lanka.

The 32-page document said the LTTE relied on “sympathetic Tamil expatriates” in the U.S., Canada, Britain, Australia, France and other countries to raise and launder money; smuggle arms, explosives, equipment and technology to Sri Lanka; obtain intelligence about the Sri Lankan government; and spread propaganda.

Yesterday, a suspected Tamil Tiger suicide bomber hit a marathon event in Sri Lanka, killing the apparent intended target, senior highways minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, 13 others and wounding 100 as the blast struck amid athletes, officials and spectators.

Described by the FBI as one of the “most dangerous and deadly” extremist organizations in the world, the LTTE grabbed the attention of U.S. authorities in August 2006 when eight people were charged in the New York case with conspiracy to provide resources and material support — including Russian-made SA-18 surface-to-air missiles, missile launchers and AK-47 assault rifles — to terrorist associates in Sri Lanka.

The complaint said the weapons were to be used in a “rapidly escalating conflict against the Sri Lankan military,” and the U.S. operatives were acting at the direction of the organization’s senior leadership. A separate complaint said they also sought to obtain classified information and conspired to bribe U.S. public officials to remove the LTTE from the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.

With an estimated 7,000 combatants, the Tigers control much of the northeastern coastal areas of Sri Lanka, an island nation 20 miles off the southern coast of India.

“Its ruthless tactics have inspired terrorist networks worldwide, including al Qaeda in Iraq,” the FBI said in a recent profile, adding that the group had “placed operatives right here in our own back yard, discreetly raising money to fund its bloody terrorist campaign overseas.”

The U.S. operatives have raised funds under a variety of cover organizations, often posing as charities, the FBI said, adding that “a great deal of money” was raised after the 2004 tsunami that devastated Sri Lanka and many other countries.

Last year, FBI agents in New York arrested Karunakaran Kandasamy, described as the “director” of U.S. operations, accusing him of raising money and arranging meetings between LTTE leaders in Sri Lanka and prominent U.S. fundraisers.

FBI Assistant Director Mark J. Mershon, who heads the bureau’s New York field division, said at the time Mr. Kandasamy “hasn’t merely supported the Tamil Tigers’ cause, he orchestrated U.S. support.

“We can no sooner allow terrorists to raise funds here than we would allow them to carry out acts of terrorism here,” he said.

U.S. Attorney Roslynn R. Mauskopf, in announcing Mr. Kandasamy’s arrest, said he operated out of an office in Queens, where he raised cash by staging fundraisers for tsunami victims through an organization known as the World Tamil Coordinating Committee.

Mrs. Mauskopf said the LTTE has “covertly operated within the United States” for years, drawing on the country’s financial resources and technological advances to further its war of terror. She said the organization had undertaken a major worldwide campaign to raise money for its offensive against the Sri Lankan government.

In Maryland, Thirunavukarasu Varatharasa, a Sri Lankan national, was sentenced in January to 57 months in prison on charges of conspiracy to provide support to the LTTE and the attempted exportation of arms and munitions. In a sting operation, he and three others negotiated to buy a laundry list of weapons from an undercover business in Baltimore.

A criminal complaint said Varatharasa conspired to export $900,000 worth of machine guns, ammunition, surface-to-air missiles, night-vision goggles and other military weapons to Sri Lanka. A co-conspirator, Haniffa Osman, who lives in Singapore, even traveled to Baltimore to test fire some of the weapons at a range in Havre de Grace with undercover U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.

A plea agreement in the case said if delivery of the first purchase was successful, undercover ICE agents were assured that a second order could be worth as much as $15 million.

“They had a well-organized establishment, but working with the Joint Terrorism Task Forces, we took a good bite out of them with the last several cases,” said FBI spokesman Richard Kolko in Washington.

However, he said the Tigers have “more fundraising and organizational desires” in the United States.

“Fortunately, we haven’t seen a strong will to attack in the U.S., but that’s not [impossible],” he said. “That’s why we have to stay on top of it.”

In the Maryland case, the plea agreement said Varatharasa and the others negotiated the purchase with undercover agents at a Baltimore business of 53 military weapons for the LTTE in Sri Lanka. It said they later met in Saipan with the undercover agents to inspect several machine guns and sniper rifles they had ordered in Baltimore.

After the inspection, a deal was made to transfer the money into an undercover bank account in Maryland. None of the weapons were ever delivered.

The FBI credits the LTTE with perfecting the use of suicide bombers and being the first to use women in suicide attacks. It also is the first terrorist group to assassinate two world leaders — former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 and the 1993 assassination of the Ranasinghe Premadasa, president of Sri Lanka.

Peter Chalk, senior terrorism and insurgency analyst at Rand Corp., said the LTTE may have learned a lesson from the U.S. arrests and pulled its operatives out. He said the U.S. venture was “probably an experiment,” adding that the group is “smart enough to learn from its mistakes.”

Mr. Chalk also noted that the LTTE has “always had a large, prolific international network” and has been “quite prolific in Canada for fundraising.”

Canada is home to many former Sri Lankans, and Canadian authorities said the organization has blackmailed many of the expatriates for money, threatening to harm relatives at home.

(Washington Times)

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The bishop of Mannar has had the venerated image moved because of the escalation of fighting between the army and Tigers in the area of the sanctuary. Catholics are asking why he chose an area under the complete control of the rebels, and hypothesise pressure.

Many Catholics in Sri Lanka, devoted to the Virgin Mary, disapprove of the decision of the bishop of Mannar to move the statue of Our Lady of Madhu to the church of Thevanpitti, at the northernmost border of the diocese. The decision of Bishop Rayappu Joseph – carried out last April 4 – is the epilogue of a drama that for months has been afflicting the local Church and the pilgrims who, in great numbers and from all the ethnic and religious groups, come to the famous shrine of Madhu. The area has become the theatre of escalation of the military confrontation between the army and the Tamil Tiger rebels. So after many appeals for better security, the bishop decided to move the venerated image of the Virgin Mary. But instead of selecting a place under the control of the army, he chose an area farther into the interior and completely under the control of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The decision met with disappointment from the faithful, who are now asking “whether the bishop trusts more in the rebels, whether the shrine is the property of the government, of the LTTE, of the diocese, of the Tamils, or is not simply the heritage of all the pilgrims?”.

Interviewed by AsiaNews on the topic, some Catholics in Colombo expressed their doubts and called upon the bishops’ conference to act in a more decisive manner. “The responsibility for protecting a sacred place”, says one woman at the shrine of Saint Anthony in Colombo, “belongs to the entire Church, and not only to the bishop of Mannar. It is the bishops’ conference that must open a direct dialogue with the Tigers and the government, and this is not a political affair”. “We do not understand why bishop Rayappu Joseph took this decision”, say Mr and Mrs Nicholas. “It seems that the bishop acted under pressure from the rebels, otherwise we are sure that he would have moved the statue to his house or to a parish in an area already ‘cleared’ by the government forces”. This opinion is also shared by the commander of the army, General Sarath Fonseka, according to whom the transfer of the statue is proof that the LTTE “are losing control of the area of Madhu”, and, aware of their imminent defeat, are exerting pressure on the bishop and the local clergy.

There are also some among the Catholics in Colombo who maintain that if the bishop has taken this decision in the interest of the community, “he has acted for the best”.

The image of the Virgin Mary at the shrine of Madhu, 220 kilometres north of Colombo, has been venerated for 400 years. Until just a few years ago, it was always considered by the warring parties as a “free zone” and was spared from violence. In recent years the area was also a refuge for families, both Tamil and Sinhala, fleeing the civil war.

(AsiaNews)

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A lawful Government of a country teaming up with terrorists to defeat other terrorists who pose an immediate threat to that  country is nothing new. The best example that comes to mind is the United States of America and Great Britain teaming up with the arch terrorist Josef Stalin to defeat another arch terrorist Adolf Hitler after those two terrorists who were once allies became enemies  during the 2nd World War.

In as rare a show of unanimity as one could dream of finding in that quagmire called “Politics” in Sri Lanka, practically all the parties opposed to the present Government [that is `opposed’ at this  moment – for who knows what they will be in the next moment !!] including the SLMC, its junior partner [at this moment] the UNP, and the JVP have, with one voice called for the immediate disarming of the Pillaiyan Group before the Eastern Provincial Council Elections. Such is the `seriousness’ they attach to this cry that the JVP has decided to take disciplinary action against its Parliamentary Group Leader Wimal Weerawansa for having expressed a different and more logical view.

What a pity it is that there was no such unanimous call for the disarming of the LTTE – for if there had been such a call, the current military campaign against the LTTE would have had the backing of all parties in Parliament. Such, however, was not to be, for `reason’ and `party politics’ are mutually allergic to each other.

Far from calling for the disarming of the LTTE, the then UNP Government of which Ranil Wickremesinghe was 3rd in command actually  armed the LTTE in 1989-90; while  the UNP Government of which Ranil Wickremesinghe was in command in 2002 entered into a Ceasefire Agreement with the LTTE in terms of which he permitted the LTTE to continue to bear arms without let or hindrance from that `Government’ while  causing the armed Tamil Groups which were assisting the Government to defend the country  against the LTTE to disarm – i.e. he did the unthinkable by disarming our allies while allowing our enemy to continue to remain armed !!!

The fact of the LTTE carrying arms during Provincial council, Parliamentary and Presidential Elections when voters came from `cleared’ as well as `uncleared’ areas; and/or the fact of the LTTE intimidating voters to secure a victory for the so called `Tamil National Alliance’ in the Northern Province, going even to the extent of preventing TULF leader V Anandasangari from casting his vote at the Parliamentary Elections of 2004 did not cause the current junior partner of the SLMC, the UNP or the UNP’s current  senior partner, the SLMC  to call for the disarming of  the LTTE.

The JVP alone of these parties has steadfastly called for the disarming of the LTTE – at least after the then UNP Government posed a threat to all but one member of the murderous leadership of that Party by a series of `extra-judicial executions’ carried out with manifest `impunity’, much to the relief of all peace-loving citizens of our land in 1989-90. Today, however, even the JVP calls for the immediate disarming of the Pillaiyan Group much to the delight of the LTTE.

The Pillaiyan Group [formerly termed the Karuna Group] were terrorists of the LTTE : it is they, who under the leadership of Prabhakaran and his lieutenant Karuna, carried out some of the most gruesome acts of terrorism we have had the misfortune to encounter. The credit’ for the mass murders of over 600 unarmed police officers who had surrendered on the orders of the pusillanimous UNP Government on  11.6.1990, the mass murders of 140 Muslims praying at their Mosques in Kaththankudy on 3.8.1990 and 127  in their beds in Eravur on 10.8.90, the mass murders of 57 Sinhalese [including infants in arms] at Gonagala on 19.9.99 and 11 at Inginiyagala on 2.6.99 among countless other feats of loathsome savagery must go to this Group.

The Pillaiyan Group were terrorists and continue to be terrorists: killing is a way of life to them. They are now with the Government only because their then leader Karuna fell out with Prabhakaran – their parting company with Prabhakaran did not transform them into a group of angelic apostles of peace.

The parting of ways between the Pillaiyan Group and Prabhakaran was a blessing for our country – for with that parting, the Pillaiyan Group stopped fighting our forces; stopped killing Sinhalese because they were Sinhalese; stopped killing Muslims because they were Muslims; stopped killing Tamils because they opposed or didn’t obey the LTTE and began fighting the LTTE and killing Tamils who supported or obeyed the LTTE or were connected to the LTTE.

There can be little doubt that the very fact of the Pillaiyan Group parting company with the LTTE and turning their guns on the LTTE contributed in no small measure to the liberation of the East from the LTTE.

A lawful Government of a country teaming up with terrorists to defeat other terrorists who pose an immediate threat to that  country is nothing new. The best example that comes to mind is the United States of America and Great Britain teaming up with the arch terrorist Josef Stalin to defeat another arch terrorist Adolf Hitler after those two terrorists who were once allies became enemies  during the 2nd World War.

However, nothing said above  is  reason for placing the Pillaiyan Group above the law or permitting them to bear arms indefinitely. The Rule of Law demands that only the legitimate Armed Forces and Police  of the Republic should bear arms. The question, therefore is not `whether’ but `when’ the Pillaiyan Group should be disarmed.

The  disarming of the Pillaiyan Group not being a mere theoretical or academic exercise, but one that would have to be effected by our already hard pressed Armed Forces,  practical considerations must necessarily be taken into account.

It would be plain stupidity to even think that the Pillaiyan Group would meekly surrender their arms and disarm at request. To a terrorist who lives by his arms, parting with them would be more painful than losing a limb. Thus, disarming the Pillaiyan Group is a task that would have to be accomplished forcibly – by military action. Clearly, if the Government is to seek to disarm the Pillaiyan Group now, while the LTTE is still armed and a fighting force to be reckoned with, not only will our Forces lose the support of the Pillaiyan Group in the battles they fight on our behalf with the LTTE, but would necessarily have to fight not one set of terrorists but two: that would thus be an imbecilic exercise from which only the LTTE would stand to gain.

Despite what has been stated above, there is one matter on which the Government must draw the line and draw it here and now. The kidnapping of children [called `child conscription’ by some] whether by the LTTE or the Pillaiyan Group must be stopped forthwith, whatever the cost of doing so may be. This is a task for which all parties including the Tamil National Alliance, and the `Human Rights Businessmen’ who call themselves  “Peace Activists” must co-operate with the Government and act as one whatever the cost may be.

There is no purpose in extolling the value of children and saying that children are the wealth of the Nation if each `side’ turns a blind eye to offences against children when they are committed by their respective allies or those with whom they sympathize.

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The Deputy Provincial Directors of Health Services (DPDHS) for Kilinochchi and Mullaithivu, have both recently raised their concerns about the severe lack of material resources to run the health services in the two districts. These two districts in Vanni suffer material shortages to run the health services because these materials are blocked at the checkpoints in Omanthai and Vavuniya by the Sri Lanka Defense Ministry, the LTTE Spokesperson for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement.

“The Kilinochchi DPDHS said that medicine quota for the Kilinochchi district hospital for the first quarter of 2008 is yet to arrive. This quota should have arrived prior to the start of the quarter in January but they have not arrived even after the quarter ended by end of March. The medicines have been stagnating in Vavuniya without permission from the Ministry of Defense. The DPDHS expressed hope that they will arrive some time soon. There are no stocks for the Amoxil syrup, a common pediatric antibiotic, and Diabetes medication. Patients are in serious danger due to lack of these medicines,” the Statement said.

According to the Statement, “The Mullaithivu DPDHS also raised his concern about the huge reduction of the fuel allocation to his health services. Although unlimited amount of fuel was permitted during the ceasefire period the amount permitted has been gradually reduced further and further. Mullaithivu DPDHS said that the health services in his district that is made up of a vast area and sparse population need 14,000 liters per month at the very minimum. With this fuel the Mullaithivu district hospital, two sub-hospitals in the district, and six pharmacies must be operated. This fuel is needed to run the electricity generation in these hospitals and also to run the ambulances that must take serious cases to the Vavuniya hospital. Despite these urgent needs only 2750 liters of fuel has been allocated for the health services in the Mullaithivu district.”

“The concerns raised by the DPDHS highlight the stark conditions in which the health services in Vanni are struggling by the man made disaster created by the Sri Lanka Defense Ministry. It is worth reminding ourselves what the United Nations human rights instruments have to say about the responsibility to provide adequate health services, especially to the children. The Convention on the Rights of the Child in Article 24 it says,

“State Parties recognize the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health. States Parties shall strive to ensure that no child is deprived of his or her right of access to such health care services.”

Under the pretext of ensuring security in the south of the island is the Sri Lankan state denying the very basic medicines to the Tamil children? Has the international community failed to notice this gross human rights violation?

(Lankaguardian)

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Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) fighter jets raided an LTTE military base located in LTTE held Mullaithiv district today evening. Jets of SLAF’s 10th fighter squadron bombed the pre identified target located in Chemmalei at approximately 2.15PM today.

Meanwhile LTTE’s senior leadership has showed signs of abandoning Madu. Almost all senior cadres deployed in the area have retreated to command bunkers located in LTTE held territory further north in the Wanni. The move escalated pace when two of army’s fighting formations advanced further after a renewed round of fighting in the first week of April. However the tigers are taking care to fill the possible entry routes with mines and IEDs. New intelligence information has suggested that the guerillas may have booby trapped some of the church buildings as well. LTTE continued to blame the army for shelling the church premises.

The government officially released casualty figures of the armed forces for the month of March. According to government released figures, 93 security forces personnel have been killed and nearly 700 more have been injured in the fighting. during March. Our sources suggest that the actual number of KIA is 104, as opposed to 93. However media reports claiming 300+ deaths of government soldiers in March are completely inaccurate. LTTE casualty figures are believed to be much higher with guerillas suffering 10-15 (one one day as high as 52 KIA) deaths daily.

In other news several foreign media reports have misinterpreted an arms purchase by Sri Lanka. The army is not buying any type of missiles as claimed by the report, but are merely buying 10000 122MM rockets for its RM-71 MBRLs to be used against the LTTE in the ongoing confrontations. MBRLs play a significant role in battle as they are known to be an effective counter against LTTE’s ‘human waves’ approach.

(Defencenet)

(more…)

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