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Archive for March, 2009

RPG Hero

RPG Hero

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Military Intelligence has uncovered evidence to indicate that Velupillai Prabhakaran, Poddu Amman and many of the other senior members of the LTTE are holed-in along with the civilians. “Colonel” Swarnam’s leg has been amputated and a large number of cadres in the “Lt. Colonel” rank have died in recent battles.

In many ways the second, third and fourth rung of the LTTE cadre has suffered heavily. “Colonel” Lakshman’s wife, an LTTE “Doctor” and the Director of the LTTE’s Keerthika Hospital has been killed. The Leader of the LTTE’s Mine-laying unit (called Ponnammaan) has also been killed in fighting.

MIC has received credible intelligence that the LTTE was planning to hold on to the remaining area until end of April or May at the most. They expect Vaiko and other LTTE supporters from Tamil Nadu to win the forthcoming elections for the 15th Lok Sabha in India and a subsequent Indian Intervention in Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile a large band of hardcore Tigers and suicide bombers who infiltrated the 58 FDL recently have started their operations. Last week a patrol from 4 Special Forces brought in to re-instruct the 58 Division’s FDL following the attack reported by us some weeks ago was targeted by an LTTE Black Tiger Commando unit.

A Corporal in a Special Forces-like uniform, bandana, beard and ALICE Pack was approaching the SF team. An experienced SF Sergeant leading the team, almost by instinct, saw through the plan. Without any questioning, the SF Sergeant opened fire felling the Corporal on the spot before he could approach the team. The Corporal turned out to be an LTTE suicide bomber with an ALICE pack packed full of explosives enough to wipe out an entire SF company.

On February 2nd, another SF soldier from 4 SF demonstrated a similar last minute, jaw-breaking stunt when he and is 12-man team was tasked to ambush LTTE suicide vehicles plying the Puthukudirippu Oddusudan road following a Cease-less Wave type of attack the Tigers launched on January 30th aimed at recapturing Mulaitivu on Independence Day 4th of February.

Having suddenly observed an cab and estimating that it was packed full of explosives, the SF soldier functioning in the RPG post launched an RPG-7 HEAT at the approaching cab at very close range. The cab exploded and the soldier sacrificed his life to save his teammates who were dug in safely inside foxholes behind him.

(Defence Wire)

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Sri Lanka, the once self-trumpeted “island of paradise,” turned into the island of bloodshed more than a quarter-century ago. But even by its long, gory record, the bloodletting since last year is unprecedented. The United Nations estimates that some 1,200 noncombatants are getting killed each month in a civil war that continues to evoke a muted international response even as hundreds of thousands of minority Tamils have fled their homes or remain trapped behind the front line.

With the world preoccupied by pressing challenges, President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brother, Defense Minister Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, a naturalized U.S. citizen, press on with their brutal military campaign with impunity. The offensive bears a distinct family imprint, with another brother the president’s top adviser.

Chinese military and financial support — as in Sudan, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Uzbekistan, North Korea, Burma and elsewhere — has directly aided government excesses and human rights abuses in Sri Lanka. But with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly emphasizing that the global financial, climate and security crises are more pressing priorities for U.S. policy than China’s human rights record, which by her own department’s recent admission has “remained poor and worsened in some areas,” Beijing has little reason to stop facilitating overseas what it practices at home — repression.

Still, the more China insists that it doesn’t mix business with politics in its foreign relations, the more evidence it provides of cynically contributing to violence and repression in internally torn states. Sri Lanka is just the latest case demonstrating Beijing’s blindness to the consequences of its aggressive pursuit of strategic interests.

No sooner had the United States ended direct military aid to Sri Lanka last year over its deteriorating human rights record than China blithely stepped in to fill the breach — a breach widened by India’s hands-off approach toward Sri Lanka since a disastrous 1987-90 peacekeeping operation in that island-nation.

Beijing began selling larger quantities of arms, and dramatically boosted its aid fivefold in the past year to almost $1 billion to emerge as Sri Lanka’s largest donor. Chinese Jian-7 fighter jets, antiaircraft guns, JY-11 3D air surveillance radars and other supplied weapons have played a central role in the Sri Lankan military successes against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (or “Tamil Tigers”), seeking to carve out an independent homeland for the ethnic Tamils in the island’s north and east.

Beijing even got its ally Pakistan actively involved in Sri Lanka. With Chinese encouragement, Pakistan — despite its own faltering economy and rising Islamist challenge — has boosted its annual military assistance loans to Sri Lanka to nearly $100 million while supplying Chinese-origin small arms and training Sri Lankan air force personnel in precision guided attacks.

China has become an enabler of repression in a number of developing nations as it seeks to gain access to oil and mineral resources, to market its goods and to step up investment. Still officially a communist state, its support for brutal regimes is driven by capitalist considerations. But while exploiting commercial opportunities, it also tries to make strategic inroads. Little surprise thus that China’s best friends are pariah or other states that abuse human rights.

Indeed, with its ability to provide political protection through its U.N. Security Council veto power, Beijing has signed tens of billions of dollars worth of energy and arms contracts in recent years with such problem states — from Burma and Iran to Sudan and Venezuela.

In the case of Sri Lanka, China has been particularly attracted by that country’s vantage location in the center of the Indian Ocean — a crucial international passageway for trade and oil. Hambantota — the billion-dollar port Chinese engineers are now building on Sri Lanka’s southeast — is the latest “pearl” in China’s strategy to control vital sea-lanes of communication between the Indian and Pacific Oceans by assembling a “string of pearls” in the form of listening posts, special naval arrangements and access to ports.

China indeed has aggressively moved in recent years to build ports in the Indian Ocean rim, including in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Burma. Besides eyeing Pakistan’s Chinese-built port-cum-naval base of Gwadar as a possible anchor for its navy, Beijing has sought naval and commercial links with the Maldives, Seychelles, Mauritius and Madagascar. However, none of the port-building projects it has bagged in recent years can match the strategic value of Hambantota, which sits astride the great trade arteries.

China’s generous military aid to Sri Lanka has tilted the military balance in favor of government forces, enabling them in recent months to unravel the de facto state the Tamil Tigers had run for years. After losing more than 5,594 square km of territory, the Tigers now are boxed into a 85-square-km sliver of wooded land in the northeast.

But despite the government’s battlefield triumphs, Asia’s longest civil war triggered by the bloody 1983 anti-Tamil riots is unlikely to end anytime soon. Not only is the government unable to define peace or outline a political solution to the Tamils’ long-standing cultural and political grievances, the rebels are gearing up to return to their roots and become guerrilla fighters again after being routed in the conventional war.

While unable to buy peace, Chinese aid has helped weaken and scar civil society. Emboldened by the unstinted Chinese support, the government has set in motion the militarization of society and employed control of information as an instrument of war, illustrated by the muzzling of the media and murders of several independent-minded journalists. It has been frenetically swelling the ranks of the military by one-fifth a year through large-scale recruitment, even as it establishes village-level civilian militias, especially in conflict-hit areas.

With an ever-larger, Chinese-aided war machine, the conflict is set to grind on, making civil society the main loser. That is why international diplomatic intervention has become imperative. India, with its geostrategic advantage and trade and investment clout over a war-hemorrhagic Sri Lankan economy that is in search of an international bailout package, must use its leverage deftly to promote political and ethnic reconciliation rooted in federalism and genuine interethnic equality. More broadly, the U.S., European Union, Japan and other important players need to exert leverage to stop the Rajapaksa brothers from rebuffing ceasefire calls and press Beijing to moderate its unsettling role.

Brahma Chellaney is professor of strategic studies at the privately funded Center for Policy Research in New Delhi.

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India’s top security expert said that five South Asian countries hit by the menace of terrorism should form a common brain trust to jointly deal with the threat. Security expert B. Raman, Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies said this in Chennai while referring to the attack on Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore.

Asked about the speculation that the terrorist group Harkat-u-Mujahideen (HUM), which maintained close links with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) could be responsible for the :Lahore attack, Raman said in an interview, “If it turns out that the HUM had a hand in it, either it might have carried it out at its own instance to express its continuing solidarity with the LTTE or at the instance of the LTTE, which has not been able to carry out any successful terrorist strike in Sri Lanka recently.”

The expert also warned that as the LTTE is finally defeated and its terrorist infrastructure in Sri Lanka neutralised, it could try to keep the movement alive through acts of terrorism in foreign countries.

“Jihadi terrorism emanating from the sanctuaries in Pakistani territory has assumed a pan-sub-continental dimension equally threatening all the countries of the sub-continent– Afghanistan, Pakistan, , India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka,” he said. “It is time these countries constitute a common counter-terrorism brains trust to deal with this threat jointly. Otherwise, they will continue bleeding separately.”

Raman pointed out that HUM is the closest ally of the LTTE in Pakistan. “LTTE has had a long history of relationship relating to arms supply and drug smuggling with HUM”.

He also said that Pro-LTTE members of the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora and the terrorist organisations of the world with which it has had fraternal ties such as the Hizbollah and the HUM would come in handy especially at a time the movement is routed in Sri Lanka.

Raman said that it was illogical for the BBC to rule out the possibility of either the direct or indirect involvement of the LTTE on the ground that there are Tamils like Muthtiah Muralitharan in the Sri Lankan team. “The LTTE had killed a number of prominent Tamils of Sri Lanka, who had distinguished themselves in various fields. It has been using thousands of Tamil civilians as human shields to protect itself from final defeat. Why should it have qualms over the killing of Sri Lankan Tamil cricketers?” he asked. “The LTTE is now a desperate organisation. It can do desperate things.”

Raman said that the HUM came to the notice of the Indian intelligence for the first time in 1993 when it supplied a consignment of arms and ammunition to the LTTE, which was loaded into an LTTE ship at Karachi with the complicity of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

It came to notice in Kashmir in 1995 when it kidnapped some Western tourists under the name Al Faran. It was after this that the US designated it as a foreign terrorist organisation in October,1997, under its then name of the Harkat-ul-Ansar.

(more…)

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Government understood that fighting terrorism is a collective effort. Unlike previous defense secretaries Gotabhaya Rajapaksa understood the importance of working with everyone. He built a first rate team drawing the leaders within the army, navy, airforce, intelligence, police, foreign ministry, and other government agencies and got them to work together. During the past two years sustained pressure was applied on the LTTE crippling the LTTE supp0rt and operational networks. It was good government leadership that made the LTTE suffer.

Interview with Professor Rohan Gunaratna

Professor Rohan Gunaratna is Head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research and Professor of Security Studies at the S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies at the Nanyang Technology University. He holds several honorary appointment including Member of the Steering Committee of George Washington University’s Homeland Security Policy Institute and the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, Oklahoma. A former Senior Fellow at the United States Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Centre at West Point and at Fletcher School for Law and Diplomacy, he holds a masters in international peace studies from Notre Dame, US, where he was Hesburgh Scholar and a doctorate in international relations from St Andrews, Scotland, where he was British Chevening Scholar.

Invited to testify before the 9-11 Commission on the structure of al Qaeda, Gunaratna led the specialist team that built the UN Database on al Qaeda, Taliban and their Entities. He debriefed detainees in the U.S., Asia, Middle East, including high value al Qaeda detainees in Iraq. He served as trainer for law enforcement, the intelligence community, and the military. He served as counter terrorism instructor for GIGN, CTSO, D88, US NAVY SEALS, Swiss Federal Police, NYPD, and the Australian Federal Police. He conducted field research in conflict zones including in Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Kashmir, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Colombia.

Author and editor of 12 books including “Inside Al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror” (Columbia University Press), an international bestseller, Gunaratna is also the lead author of Jane’s Counter Terrorism, a handbook for counter terrorism practitioners. His latest book with Michael Chandler, former Chairman of the UN Monitoring Group into the Mobility, Weapons and Finance is “Countering Terrorism: Can We Meet the Threat of Global Violence?” A litigation consultant to the U.S. Department of Justice, Gunaratna was United States expert in the Jose Padilla trial.

Q. How do you see the latest developments in Northern theater?

A. The LTTE has taken a severe beating. The LTTE is moving in three directions – the LTTE is planning for the large scale infiltration of Colombo to mount suicide attacks, internationally to tarnish Sri Lanka’s image by misusing the word genocide, and radicalizing the displaced Tamils and recruiting them to their rank and file.

Q.What made the changes in the ground for the Sri Lankan Armed forces and Tamil Tigers?

A.Government understood that fighting terrorism is a collective effort. Unlike previous defense secretaries Gotabhaya Rajapaksa understood the importance of working with everyone. He built a first rate team drawing the leaders within the army, navy, airforce, intelligence, police, foreign ministry, and other government agencies and got them to work together. During the past two years sustained pressure was applied on the LTTE crippling the LTTE support and operational networks. It was good government leadership that made the LTTE suffer.

Q.How do you see the 2002 CFA signed by GOSL and LTTE? Do you believe that LTTE benefited from it?

A. LTTE made use of each and every ceasefire to regroup and resupply as a group. The LTTE cadres and leaders made use of every ceasefire to rest, recuperate, collect intelligence and strike back.

Q.Do you believe that government forces can capture Prabhakaran alive or eliminate him?

A.If the same degree of pressure can be maintained on the LTTE for two years, the LTTE can be dismantled.

Q. Do you believe that a military defeat of LTTE is evident?

A. Yes, but it is essential for government to continue to work with everyone. This includes the diplomatic missions, the NGOs, the human right lobby and other actors who have been traditionally mislead or sympathetic to the LTTE.

Q. What do you believe are some strategic mistakes that LTTE committed during post- 9/11 environment?

A. Prabhakaran failed to seize several golden moments to talk peace and enter mainstream politics. The LTTE never addressed the core issues but discussed peripheral issues to buy time to strengthen itself militarily. The LTTE under Prabhakaran will never bring any relief to the Tamils. Prabhakaran has only brought suffering, death and destruction to the Tamils.

Q. How do you see the developments in Eastern province?

A. It is paramount for government to work with the international community to develop the east. Working with the Muslim, Tamil and Sinhala population in the East, government should make the East a model for the north.

Q. What specific challenges are ahead of the government of Sri lanka within next ten years?

A. On the economic side, government should review the existing investment incentives and make Sri Lanka the most attractive nation in the world for foreign investment. On the science and technology and IT side, government should make Sri Lanka the technology hub of Asia by inviting the best brains back to Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka’s greatest untapped resource is its expatriates. On the governance side, Sri Lanka must give new powers to the anti-corruption commission and stamp out corruption. No country can develop without corruption. Leaders who are corrupt should deserve severe penalties. On the security side, it is essential for the government to build a world class security and intelligence service that warns government of threats ahead of time. The fight against the LTTE has been historically mismanaged.Government should reduce the size of the military but invest in building more elite forces like the special forces, commandos and airborne troops. On the social side, government must create programs to integrate the LTTE surrenders to the nations mainstream. Government should give land to every military and police officer and encourage them to start industries and business from agriculture to farming.

Q. What do you believe as the ideal political solution for the country?

A. Sri Lankan leaders must affirm and inform all communities that every religious and ethnic community will be treated equally. The majority community, there Sinhalese, can afford to be more generous to the minorities. If all ethnic and religious groups are treated equally, there will be no anger, resentment and no support for violence. Those who preach and practice hatred should be persecuted. Government must educate all its citizens that the national security of the nation rests on maintaining communal and religious harmony.

Q. How do you see the US and Indian involvements in current context?

A. The government of India trained the LTTE from 1983 to 1987. Today, India has realized the blow back effect of funding, arming, and directing terrorism in the neighbourhood. Sri Lanka must manage its relations with India by posting its most senior and able diplomat to Madras. We must invite all the leaders of Tamil political parties in India to visit Sri Lanka. The US is the most generous nation on earth. US has helped Sri Lanka immensely in the past and continues to help us. As the first country in the region to develop a market economy, Sri Lanka must work closely with the US. Sri Lanka must strike strategic partnerships with the US, EU, China, India, and Pakistan.

Q. What reactions do you expect from Tamil Diaspora within the next few months? Do you think that they have a major impact on Sri Lankan theater?

A. The Sri Lankan foreign ministry has failed to counter terrorist and extremist propaganda. The primary duty of a Sri Lankan diplomat is to advance Sri Lanka’s national interests. Currentlly its national security interests are challenged. As such, every diplomat should spend a third of his time countering the evil propaganda of the LTTE. The diplomats should explain to the Tamils overseas not to be carried away by the LTTE black and grey propaganda. Sri Lanka must appoint an ambassador for counter terrorism that will advice all missions on strategies and approaches to counter terrorist propaganda, keep foreign governments briefed and to ensure that the truce face of the LTTE is publicized. As the LTTE is a banned group, Sri Lanka should work with and assist foreign governments to prosecute those who work for the LTTE in their countries.

Q. What suggestions do you have for Sri Lankan political and military machinery?
A. Governance is a monumental challenge. Every Sri Lankan political leader must understand that they must conduct themselves properly to earn the respect of country and the international community. A leader must know to lead himself, then to lead others and eventually to lead leaders. This is the challenge of the hour.

The LTTE rank and file is demoralized and government must create a pathway for them to disengage from the LTTE. Government must announce amnesties for those LTTE members and leaders that abandon the LTTE. Government should promise them jobs and care for their families. Government should request for international assistance to rehabilitate those LTTE fighters that disengage from violence so that they will be useful to build the nation.

(Sri Lanka Guardian)

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Sri Lankan soldiers assailed the last slice of land still controlled by ethnic Tamil separatists, killing at least 32 rebels, the defense ministry said Saturday.

The military has driven the Tamil Tigers from nearly all their northern strongholds in an all-out offensive aimed at ending the South Asian island’s quarter-century civil war.

Up to 200,000 civilians are cornered along with the holdouts in a strip of jungle and beach along the northeastern coast measuring just 20 square miles (50 square kilometers).

A Ministry of Defense statement said troops and rebels fought several battles in Mullaitivu on Friday, and at least 32 guerrillas died and more than a dozen were wounded.

The rebel force was making “desperate efforts to prolong its imminent defeat” including setting up artillery positions in a government-declared safe zone, it said.

Still, army spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said troops recovered seven rebel bodies near one of the last rebel-held villages and that he could not immediately confirm the higher toll released by the ministry.

Rebel officials could not be reached for comment Saturday and battlefield details can’t be verified independently because journalists are barred from the war zone.

Concern is mounting for the fate of the civilians caught up in the fighting.

The government has rejected calls from international aid groups for a cease-fire, saying it is on the verge of victory, while the rebels have ruled out any mass evacuation of civilians — fueling suspicion that they are using them as a human shield.

The U.N. says thousands of innocents have been killed or wounded in recent fighting and the survivors are dangerously short of food, drinking water and medical supplies.

The top government health official in the rebel pocket told The Associated Press on Thursday that 13 people — most of them elderly — had died from starvation in the previous week.

However, the Sri Lankan government said in a statement Saturday that the exact cause of death was unknown because none of the 13 bodies had undergone a post-mortem examination.

It said the government had taken “all possible measures” to provide food and medicines to civilians in the rebel pocket, but gave no specifics.

Amnesty International said continued restrictions on the Sri Lankan media made it impossible to get an impartial picture of what was happening in the country.

The London-based rights group said at least 14 media workers have been killed in Sri Lanka since the beginning of 2006, while others were arbitrarily detained, tortured or have disappeared while in the custody of security forces.

“Without a free media able to express alternative views and offer the opportunity for public scrutiny, abuses can flourish under a veil of secrecy and denial,” Yolanda Foster, Amnesty’s Sri Lanka researcher, told a vigil in London to mark a prominent Sri Lankan journalist‘s first year in prison.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have fought since 1983 for an independent state for the Tamil minority, which suffered decades of marginalization at the hands of governments dominated by the Sinhalese majority. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the fighting.

(more…)

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Heavy fighting ensued south of Chalai in general area Mulaitivu when a wave of LTTE infiltrators and attack teams targeted a weak point in the forward marching divisions last morning. The infiltrators were first spotted by the 55 Division as they targeted the boundary of two brigades of the 55 and 58 Divisions. The exact casualties to both sides will be revealed later.

During Oyatha Alaikal 1, 2 and 3, the Tigers successfully collapsed the Army’s divisions by attacking them at the seam. This usually results in the two respective Divisions and their affected Brigades, Battalions all the way down to a platoon being split, thus opening up a gap through which the Tigers could flank the Divisions.

But this type of operation requires high morale, manpower and firepower on the part of the Tigers and weak leadership and morale and also inferior field tactics and strategies on the part of the Army, both of which were unavailable yesterday. A tactic like this will have little effect particularly on an Army which has 3 Divisions, 5 Task Forces and a Special Forces Brigade on reserve.

In many of the unfortunate occasions where this has happened to the Army, it happened due to low morale and inferior leadership on the part of some officers. Some Field Commanders– from Platoon COs upto Brigade COs were concentrating on their own respective unit and not on the counter attack.

Meanwhile the LTTE has started another scam to discredit the Army and to give their fighters a fighting chance. The scam is to pose-off injured fighters as civilians who are handed over to the ICRC inside the civilian safety zone. From there these ‘civilians’ are registered by the ICRC and handed-over the the Sri Lanka Navy. The Navy will then transport them to Trincomalee Hospital.

Military Intelligence and Naval Intelligence have so far identified 30-40 such fighters from among the ‘civilians’. They cannot be arrested or detained nor can they be rehabilitated like surrendees. If they are resettled once recovered from the wounds, there is a possibility that they might operate as insurgents from among the civilians.

(Defence Wire)

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