Human bombs versus conventional offensives

19 10 2008

Source: India Today

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The LTTE were not the originators of the cult of suicide terrorism. That dubious distinction goes to the Hezbollah, whose 1983 bombing of the Marine Corps barracks in Beirut killed 241 US servicemen.

The LTTE copycatted the Hezbollah when Vallipuram Vasanthan aka ‘Captain Miller’ drove a truckload of explosives into a Sri Lankan army camp killing 39 soldiers. Over the years, they honed suicide terrorism into a lethal art, striking at heavily guarded targets –VIPs or groups of security personnel. They assassinated former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 and President Premadasa two years later. Suicide bombers strike at heavily guarded or fortified targets, individuals or installations, which are hard to reach by conventional means.

But, of late, the LTTE, which has resumed its suicide bombing campaign since its five year ceasefire with the Sri Lankan government collapsed two years ago, has been completely overshadowed by the attacks carried out in Pakistan against the Pakistan military and police and VIP targets like Benazir Bhutto, but with scant regard for civilian collateral.

Pakistan is now emerging as the suicide bombing capital of the world. In the first eight months of the year, says the Institute of Conflict Management, 28 suicide bombings within Pakistan have killed more than 471 people. By comparison, Iraq saw 42 such attacks and 463 deaths; Afghanistan witnessed 36 incidents and 436 casualties.

These attacks don’t include last week’s suicide assault on Pakistan’s anti-terrorist headquarters that wounded six, or the truck bombing of the Marriott hotel in Islamabad which killed over 55 people, including the Czech envoy.

In sharp contrast, the notorious Black Tigers and their marine counterparts, the Black Sea Tigers have struck 29 times on land, sea and under the water – a suicide diver attacked and sank a Lankan naval vessel inside Trincomalee harbour in May last year killing over 300 persons.

Yet, mindless as they may seem, these attacks separated by thousands of kilometres have a common underlying message. Both the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the LTTE are under siege. The Pakistani Taliban is reeling from multiple assaults from government ground forces, helicopter gunships and artillery in the North-West Frontier Province. The Sri Lankan army is advancing within sight of the Tiger capital of Kilinochchi. Both these guerrilla armies have begun using bombings as a cost effective way of launching the fight into the government’s rear and thereby force a stalemate. Regrettably, they don’t seem to be short of either recruits or material to carry them out.

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