Claymore for President set after war was over
A prerequisite for the success of guerrilla warfare is a base, strategically located in a terrain in which the guerrillas can carry out their duties of training, self-preservation, and development.
Ability to fight a war without a rear area is always attributed as a fundamental characteristic of guerrilla action; however it does not mean that guerrillas can exist and function over a long period of time without the development of base areas. Mao Zedong is one of the pioneers of guerrilla warfare who stressed on the importance of establishing bases. Mao led Red Army on an 8000 km retreat to evade pursuit by Kuomintang forces and established a base in an inaccessible mountainous terrain in Shannxxi in the northwest.
LTTE itself maintained a base, which had been impregnable for the Sri Lankan troops for the most part of the war. Planning and preparation for major military and terrorist attacks took place in that territory which also provided fertile ground for recruitment. Many of the attacks executed in the south and planned in the Wanni were never resolved. However tables have turned since the military defeat of the LTTE. With the rout of the LTTE and the recapture of the territory held by the LTTE, many a mystery over the Tiger plots has been bared.
Last week, we reported how the investigators solved the mystery over the suicide attack on the former Commander of Army Gen Sarath Fonseka. Another major expose reported during the same week was the alleged complicity of the Superintendent of Police Lakshman Cooray who is accused of transporting suicide bombers and explosives on several occasions. Both arrests, of an army chef identified as Siddeek and of Lakshman Cooray were made after the arrest of a LTTE cell leader identified as Piribaran.
This week saw many more conspiracies being exposed. One such is the bomb explosion targeting the entourage of the Pakistani High Commissioner Bashir Wali Mohammad in Colpitty on August 16, 2006. The latest expose came after the arrest of another Tiger operative who is alleged to have masterminded the bomb blast.
The Pakistani High Commissioner
The Pakistani High Commissioner, the investigators now confide referring to a confession extracted from the Tiger mastermind, was a passer by. The attackers were targeting whoever was the VIP taking the route.
The Tiger operative had in fact missed the first attempt on an unknown VIP vehicle which passed the place— due to a technical glitch in the remote controller. He then went into the Liberty Plaza shopping mall and repaired the gadget. Returning to his position, he observed what looked like VIP movement and pressed the button, detonating the bomb laden inside a three-wheeler. It was after the blast that attacker came to know that the quarry had been the Pakistani High Commissioner. The explosion killed seven soldiers providing security to the Pakistani envoy and risked a diplomatic stand off between Pakistan and its arch rival India. Mr Wali Mohammed, himself a retired Colonel of the Pakistan army and Inter Services Intelligence blamed India for the attack. India’s Intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) was suspected in the attack.
It took three years for the secrets of the attack to surface. The Tiger mastermind was arrested along with a suicide jacket, claymore fragmentation mines, ammunition and a handgun at a house on the Anandaraja Mawatha, Mattakuliya.
The arrest had shed light into another assassination plot. The target of the latest plot, according to intelligence officials, is the Secretary of Defence Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who survived a previous attack at the Pittala junction in 2006.
Accordingly, the modus operandi had been to ram an explosive laden motor bike on the vehicle of the defence secretary. A back up plan has also been put in place to target the ambulance which would evacuate Rajapaksa after the explosion, using another suicide attacker.
The elaborate plan had been masterminded by an operative identified by his nom de guerre as Venu, who had left for Malaysia having done the preparations for the attack. Police had not yet arrested either, the suicide bombers or seized the explosive laden motor bikes.
We could not vouch for the credibility of regular exposes of alleged plots claimed to have been bared by the Police due the absence of verifiable sources and restriction on media access. However, if we are to go by these claims, believing that they are not of a tall order, they portend a disturbing development . LTTE’s sleeper cells are active, even after the military rout of the movement.
However, such a claim needs to be qualified by a careful analysis of the timeline of the conspiracies exposed by the security agencies recently. Many such conspiracies had been hatched before the annihilation of the LTTE in May. As for the assassination attempt on Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the alleged mastermind, Venu had left for Malaysia in April. However, one anecdote differs from this category. Two months after the military defeat of the LTTE, Lakshman Cooray transported two claymore mines to Buttala. He buried one weighing 15kg at the playground where the President’s helicopter was scheduled to land — which had been changed by the Presidential Security at the last moment – and the other on the road side to target the Presidential motorcade.
Loosely knitted, shadowy cells
Two claymore mines were unearthed with information provided by the arrested SSP.
Cooray acted in cahoots with Piribaran, the Tiger cell leader now in custody.
Piribaran operated directly under the feared Tiger intelligence wing leader Pottu Amman. However, it is not clear under whose orders, the Tiger mastermind operated since the obliteration of the LTTE’s top rung leadership. What is however evident is that his leaders are not prepared to give up-despite the newly appointed LTTE leader Kumaran Pathmanathan alias KP’s purported announcement of LTTE silencing guns.
The LTTE is defeated conclusively on the battle front and its top leadership is obliterated and the base lost. Yet, loosely knitted, shadowy cells of LTTE cadres appear to be active, taking orders from LTTE operatives overseas. These groups, as evident in recent arrests of Piribaran are capable of independent action.
This holds resemblance to the metamorphosis of the Al Qaeda, which until the coalition invasion of Afghanistan was a terrorist group with a top down hierarchical structure and an operational base. Having been deprived of its base, Al Qaeda evolved into loosely knit cells which take inspiration from Osama bin Laden and Salafi Jihadist ideology and are capable of independent action. These Al Qaeda affiliated groups have taken precedence in terrorist attacks in the west while Al Qaeda Central receded in influence. LTTE itself is no longer the strict top down hierarchical structure it had been before May this year. The arrest of KP would lead it further into the wilderness. Disparaging Islamic extremist groups draw inspiration from Salafi ideology and Osama bin laden and from what are called Al Qaeda affiliated groups. In the same manner, sleeper cells of the LTTE, though not in large numbers can operate, drawing inspiration from the legacy of the LTTE. Yet, the leadership vacuum would be a handicap.
Perinpanayagam Sivapalan alias Nediyavan,(tall man in Tamil), a resident of Tamil Vestlan and a former cadre of the LTTE’s political wing is rumoured to be the next leader of the LTTE.
Nediyavan is reputed, among Tamil circles for favouring brute force over negotiations, which kept him at odds with KP who announced that the LTTE would take a “political path.” Later, he patched up with the KP, weeks before the latter’s arrest. Intelligence officials say these cadres are in touch with the sleeper cells of the LTTE. One official cautioned that these cells are in the process of reorganizing themselves and linking with their overseas branches. Surely, the once conventional war has now transformed into an intelligence war. It is also a race with the time. The intelligence agencies have to dismantle the sleeper cells of the LTTE before they reorganize themselves.