LTTE — a ruthless militant organisation Press Trust of India Sunday, April 05, 2009, (Colombo)

6 04 2009

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which lost its last bastion of Pudukudiriyirippu to Sri Lankan forces on Sunday, gave a new dimension to militancy in the world by using suicide bombers and other guerilla attacks to maintain their struggle for a separate Tamil Eelam.

LTTE, led by Velupillai Prabhakaran — a school dropout from the secret jungles of Wanni in northern Sri Lanka for the past 30 years, has been accused of killing many Sri Lankan Sinhalese and Tamil leaders and former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Starting as a liberation movement in the late 1970s to attain freedom for “oppressed” Tamils from the clutches of Sri Lankans, the LTTE later evolved as a ruthless organisation for whom violence became a legitimate tool to eliminate political opponents.

In its struggle for a separate Tamil homeland, 54-year-old Prabhakaran introduced suicide bombers, mostly young women, and targeted major government installations, including military headquarters and the lone international airport in Sri Lanka.

Prabhakaran founded the LTTE in the late 1970s and was first named as an accused in the murder of the mayor of Jaffna, the administrative headquarters of the Tamil Tigers’.

During the 1980s and early 90s, the organisation was also accused of committing terror acts in Tamil Nadu where it liquidated its militant rivals.

The LTTE is the only terrorist outfit in the world to have three armed forces wings — Tigers (ground), Sea Tigers (Navy) and Air Tigers — (Air Force).

Black Tigers, the suicide wing of LTTE, came into prominence when the Tigers’ launched their first suicide attack against a Sri Lankan Army camp killing 40 soldiers.

The LTTE became the first organisation in the world to employ women as soldiers in the battlefield.

Tamil Tigers and Prabhakaran, who were given refuge in Tamil Nadu under the then Central governments’ policy, lost sympathy in India after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi during campaigning in the state for the 1991 Lok Sabha polls.

It is alleged that Prabhakaran wanted to avenge the Indian prime minister’s decision in 1987 to deploy Indian peacekeeping force troops in Sri Lanka.

The Tamil Tigers are also blamed for the murder of the then Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa and a number of audacious attacks on the Sri Lankan Army installations.

The outfit has also earned the ire of human rights groups who allege that the LTTE recruits young children to fight against the Army.

LTTE, which is believed to be funded by Tamils living in Europe and other countries across the world, agreed for a ceasefire with Sri Lanka in 2002. But both sides continued to violate the Norway-brokered agreement which until it was formally abrogated by the Mahinda Rajapakse government.

Prabhakaran and the LTTE received a major blow when his confidant Colonel Karuna parted ways and formed his own outfit. However, he later converted as an opponent of the Tamil movement and is now serving as an MP.

Though his followers consider him as a freedom fighter struggling for Tamil emancipation from Sinhala oppression, various nations, including India, have banned his organisation and branded him as a terrorist.

The loss of Pudukudiriyirippu has confined the Tiger rebels to a 20 square km area marked as a ‘no-fire’ zone in northeastern Sri Lanka.

In January this year, the LTTE lost their de-facto capital of Kilinochchi in one of the biggest blows in 25 years of running battles, before being thrown out of another major stronghold Mullaittivu.

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400 LTTE cadres killed

6 04 2009

400 LTTE cadres killed B. Muralidhar Reddy

COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan military on Sunday claimed that over 400 cadres of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, including half-a-dozen senior leaders, were killed as the forces captured the last stretch of land under the Tigers’ control outside the 20 sq. km. government-demarcated ‘no-fire zone’ (NFZ).

According to the Defence Ministry, the forces ousted the LTTE from over a kilometre of land east of Puthukkudiyirippu after pitched battles with the Tiger cadres.

The military believes that the remaining 500 cadres and leaders of the LTTE, including its chief Velupillai Prabakaran and intelligence wing chief Pottu Amman, have retreated into the NFZ where thousands of civilians are trapped.

There was not a word from the LTTE on the military claims. The last update on the LTTE official website was on February 24. The site was revived in the third week of February after a gap of three weeks. The estimates of civilians held up in the NFZ vary from 50,000 to 100,000. The advance of the military into the NFZ is a delicate and complicated task, particularly since there are no signs of surrender by the LTTE.

As per the military, over 250 cadres of the LTTE were killed in hand-to-hand combat since Saturday night. Among senior Tiger rankers listed as dead by the Ministry are Theepan (LTTE’s former ‘Northern region’ chief), Ruben, Nagesh, Gadaphi (former bodyguard of Prabakaran), Vidusha (‘Malathi’ female wing head), Durga (‘Soothiya’ female wing head) and Kamalini.





Surrender or face rout, Rajapksa tells LTTE;

6 04 2009
Surrender or face rout, Rajapksa tells LTTE; toll reaches 480
T V Sriram
Colombo, Apr 6 (PTI) With the LTTE remnants, including its top leaders, believed to be hiding in a narrow strip teeming with civilians, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa today asked them to lay down arms or “face rout” as troops braced for a final battle after killing 480 rebels in four days of fighting.

With the operation turning more complex after the rebels were forced into the no-fire zone, the security forces are now preparing to rescue over 70,000 Tamil civilians trapped there.

Rajapaksa said there will be no ceasefire with the rebels and maintained that the troops will free the civilians, who, the government alleges, are being held hostage by the LTTE.

The rebel remnants, including their supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran, second-in-command Pottu Amman and other senior commanders, are believed to be holed up in the 20 sq-km safety zone — a jungle strip along a beach in the north — after troops captured Pudukudiyirippu, the last LTTE bastion.

With recovery of more bodies of LTTE cadres from Pudukudiyirippu, the rebel toll in four days of close-quarter combat increased to 480, the military said today.

President Rajapaksa asked the LTTE, which have fought since 1983 for a separate homeland for Tamils in Sri Lanka, to surrender and avoid a “complete rout that is close now”.

“The only way out for the rebels is to save their lives, and if they lay down arms and surrender, it will save the lives of the trapped civilians too,” he said. PTI





Sri Lanka suicide blast kills 14, wounds minister

13 03 2009

Source: AP

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) – A suicide bomber attacked government ministers leading a procession to mark a Muslim festival in southern Sri Lanka, killing 14 people and severely wounding one of the officials.The government blamed Tamil Tiger separatists for Tuesday’s blast, which wounded 45 other people, saying the rebels had grown desperate in the
face of an army offensive that has driven them close to defeat after more than 25 years of civil war.If the assault was carried out by the Tigers, it shows that the guerrillas can still launch strikes far from their traditional strongholds in the north and east even as they face battlefield defeat.
As the military has pushed the rebels into an ever-shrinking sliver of territory in the north, human rights and aid groups have voiced concern for the fate of the tens of thousands of civilians trapped in the pocket. Heavy artillery attacks Tuesday killed at least 49 ethnic Tamil civilians and wounded hundreds of others, the top government health official in the war zone said.While fighting rages in the north, the suicide attacker struck in the southern town of Akuressa as six ministers led a procession toward a mosque for a ceremony to commemorate the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday.Television footage showed men in white robes and caps slowly parading down the street before the blast sent them running in all directions. Afterward, charred bodies lay scattered among their torn clothes and severed limbs just outside the mosque compound’s gates.?I heard a huge sound, and then I saw people had fallen everywhere.

They were covered with blood and flesh, and the wounded people were screaming,? Ahamed Nafri, 29, said by telephone from the hospital in the nearby town of Matara.Police and bystanders hauled the badly bleeding Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Mahinda Wijesekara into a van. He was later flown to the capital for treatment to a head wound.Dr. Hector Weerasinghe, director of Colombo National Hospital, said the minister underwent three hours of surgery and was still in serious condition late Tuesday.The government said the attack killed 14 people and wounded 45 more.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s office said selecting a mosque on an Islamic festival for the attack showed the rebels ?hatred? of Muslims and strengthened the government’s resolve to defeat them.There was no indication Muslims were specifically targeted on Tuesday. However, the Tamil Tigers used violence to drive many Muslims and ethnic Sinhalese, who are mainly Buddhist, from areas dominated by Tamils, who are mostly Hindu.

In one of the bloodiest incidents, suspected rebels attacked a mosque in an eastern town in 1990 with guns, grenades and machetes, killing 140 worshippers.Muslims, many of them descendants of Arab or Indian traders, make up about 7 percent of Sri Lanka’s population. Many speak Tamil but the community has largely stayed out of the war.With most communication to the north severed, rebel spokesmen could not be reached for comment.

The Tamil Tigers 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.





Andrew Buncombe: Well-trained, motivated and on the rise. But who are these militants?

5 03 2009

Source: The independent

The images are nothing short of terrifying. A dozen well-trained, well-armed men fanning out and taking up their positions with consummate ease and expertise. Nothing could be more different than the grainy CCTV footage of a single truck lurching up to the gate of a five-star hotel and its driver arguing with the security guards and, five minutes later, a massive bomb exploding.

Last night, as Pakistani police continued what increasingly seemed a hapless hunt for the perpetrators of the Lahore attack, a consensus was gathering that the ambush represented the emergence of a new and distressing terror threat for South Asia.

It is not that militant attacks are anything new for Pakistan. Since the summer of 2007, the country has been beset by about 120 suicide bomb attacks on police and civilian targets. But almost without exception, they have been largely crude, hit-or-miss strikes that depended on one or two attackers delivering a truck or car bomb. Tuesday’s highly-mobile, commando-style militants armed with grenade launchers and automatic weapons and who slipped away when they realised their objective was not obtainable, appeared anything but crude.

“These were definitely different tactics. They were like commandos and they were very clearly not on a suicide mission,” said Ayesha Siddiqa, an Islamabad-based analyst and author. “They had a particular intention – to either kidnap or attack the Sri Lankan team – but when they were not able to do that they fled and have not been seen.”

Many have likened the Lahore attacks to those in Mumbai last November when a similar number of well-trained, well-armed militants held off Indian counter-terrorism commandos for more than 60 hours. Those attacks were blamed by India and others on the Pakistan-based group Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT). It is too early to say whether the LeT was responsible for the Lahore attack and experts point out that, in its 20-year existence, the LeT has never attacked a target inside Pakistan. But clearly something very serious is happening in Pakistan; someone, somewhere is training groups of well-equipped, highly motivated militants who have the wherewithal and skills to challenge even the best of the region’s counter-terrorism forces. It raises all manner of questions; where are they being trained, who is supplying them with arms, who is supplying them with intelligence, why are the intelligence agencies such as Pakistan’s notorious ISI not aware of this group? More sinisterly, many will ask, are elements in the ISI linked to these militants.

Diving into the alphabet soup of potential suspects for Tuesday’s attack may be a futile task. Bahukutumbi Raman, an Indian security analyst and former intelligence official, said he believed a number of Pakistan-based militant groups had the potential to carry out that style of attack. They include the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), an offshoot of the HUM, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), an anti-Shia organisation, and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI).

Writing on his website, he adds: “Al-Qa’ida and the [Pakistan Taliban] have carried out a number of suicide bombings through individual suicide bombers and vehicle-borne bombers in many towns including Lahore but they have not so far carried out a frontal urban ambush … Since its formation in 1989, [the LeT] has never carried out any act of terrorism in Pakistani territory, against Pakistani or foreign nationals. All its acts of terrorism have been either in Indian or Afghan territory.”

Mr Raman says the HUM once had operational ties with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) the Sri Lankan rebel group.

The incident has also forced a rethink of what constitutes a target. Until this point, sportsmen and woman were believed to be largely insulated from the region’s extremism. But if cricketers are now considered fair game, it means, in effect, that no one is safe.

Asked how Pakistan can defend itself against this new threat, Talat Masood, a former Pakistani general, said: “You have to have a lot of good intelligence, the support of your people and a better police. You also have to have good governance, rather than growing opposition to everything that is happening.”





Police left us like sitting ducks, says referee

5 03 2009

Chris Broad, the ex-England batsman turned match referee who escaped injury in Tuesday’s attack on the Sri Lankan cricketers, castigated Pakistan yesterday for not providing the promised “presidential-style security” and accused the security services of fleeing the scene and leaving the visitors as “sitting ducks”.

As Pakistani police began investigating whether the gunmen were planning to take the whole squad hostage, Broad arrived at Manchester airport with scathing remarks about the way Pakistani police had handled the attack.

“After the incident there was not a sign of a policeman anywhere,” said Broad. “They had clearly gone, left the scene and left us to be sitting ducks. I am extremely angry that we were promised high-level security and in our hour of need that security vanished and we were left open to anything that the terrorists wanted.

“Questions need to be asked of Pakistan security. At every junction there are police with handguns controlling traffic, so how did the terrorists come to the roundabout and these guys do nothing about it?”

Sri Lanka’s team captain, Mahela Jayawardene, appeared to side with Broad, saying that the gunmen fought a one-sided battle. “They were not under pressure … nobody was firing at them,” he said.

But Pakistani officials were aghast at the suggestion. Ijaz Butt, the Pakistan cricket board chief, said: “How can Chris Broad say this when six policemen were killed?”

The assailants were carrying enough arms, ammunition, food and medical supplies to hold out for a prolonged period, perhaps several days. Pakistani police believe they could have been planning to board the bus and then put on the suicide vests that some were carrying, which would have enabled them to hold the entire team captive.

It may just have been the quick wits of the driver, who managed to speed the bus away, that averted a dramatic hostage situation. “From the inventory we have recovered, it seems they did not just mean to ambush the cavalcade,” said Mushtaq Sukhera, the head of the investigations department of the Lahore police force, in an interview with the Guardian. “It all suggests that they had planned something else, otherwise why were they carrying all these things?”

Sukhera would not speculate on the hostage plan, but other police officers, speaking on condition of anonymity, said taking the bus seemed the most likely.

A huge quantity of firearms, grenades and other equipment was recovered from rucksacks dumped by the attackers, and from an abandoned car. There were also rocket-propelled grenade launchers, meaning that the terrorists were at least as heavily armed as the men who attacked Mumbai for three days in November.

The assailants carried significant quantities of food, bandages and antiseptic liquid. Each of the gunmen wore a bulky rucksack. Sukhera said each rucksack contained half a kilo of almonds, half a kilo of dried fruit, biscuits and water bottles, enough to keep them going for days.

Police yesterday made sweeping arrests, detaining some 50 people, though reports suggested none were the gunmen involved and they had only vague connections to the incident.

Sketches of four of the attackers were issued by the police. CCTV footage emerged showing how calmly the gunmen left the scene. The images showed the terrorists strolling through a nearby market after the attack, machine guns still in hand. The authorities for the first time admitted security lapses yesterday. The top official in the Lahore administration, Khusro Pervaiz, said the “security gaps are very vivid, very clear”. He said the outer cordon of the Sri Lankan team’s police escort was missing or did not respond. He also said the vehicles being used by the escort were inappropriate.





Lahore ‘Cricket’ attack may mark a shift in Pakistan

4 03 2009

Source: Asia Times

By Syed Saleem Shahzad, March 04, 2009.

KARACHI – Pakistan might recently have signed peace deals with militants in its tribal areas, including with vehement anti-establishment Pakistan Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, but militants on Tuesday staged a brazen attack in Lahore, the capital of Punjab province and the second-largest city in the country.

The attack by 12 heavily armed gunmen on a convoy escorted by police transporting Sri Lankan cricketers to a match against Pakistan has set off alarm bells in the capital Islamabad that militants are now taking their battle into major urban centres.

At least five people died and six of the cricketers were injured in a 25-minute battle in which militants wearing backpacks and carrying AK-47s, rockets and grenades fought police. The assailants then all fled. The Sri Lankan cricketers have called off their tour and are heading home immediately.

The attack bore some similarity to that of 10 well-armed gunmen, also with backpacks, who rampaged through Mumbai in India last November, killing 140 people. They were later found to have connections to the banned Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

“This was a planned terrorist attack. They had heavy weapons,” Salman Taseer, who heads the provincial government as governor of Punjab, was reported as saying. “These were the same methods and the same sort of people as hit Mumbai.”

Numerous Pakistani analysts have been quick to point a finger at India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) for staging what they say is a tit-for-tat attack on Tuesday, although there is been no official announcement in this connection.

A press attache at the Sri Lankan Embassy in Islamabad thought it highly unlikely that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who a waging a bloody separatist war in Sri Lanka, had anything to do with Tuesday’s events.

Rather, judging by what was shown on Pakistani television, the attack is the hallmark of those that were waged by militants (many of them Punjabi) against Indian security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir up until a few years ago. They were trained by the Indian cell of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

In 2005-06, these militants joined forces with the Pakistani Taliban and the Afghan resistance after Pakistan closed down their training camps in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, a move that changed the dynamics of the war theater in the region. Beside the Mumbai attack, Tuesday’s assault was similar to the storming of the Serena Hotel in the Afghan capital of Kabul in January 2008 and the unsuccessful July 2008 attack on Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul. In all of these incidents, the attackers abandoned their weapons and quickly melted into a thickly populated area of the city where, apparently, they were whisked away by waiting colleagues.

Retired Lieutenant General Hamid Nawaz, a former interim minister the Interior and a close aide of former president General Pervez Musharraf, commented to Asia Times Online, “This proves that striking peace deals [with militants] will not serve any purpose and there is a need to handle them with iron hands. I blame the government for negligence.

“Providing a single elite police commando bus was not enough. They should have been provided VIP [very important people] security like the state provides for governors and chief ministers. Traffic should have been blocked on their route,” Nawaz said.

Former Pakistani cricketer Zaheer Abbas said, “I am not a politician to comment on who was behind it, but it has damaged Pakistani cricket very badly. I don’t understand why anybody would target Sri Lankans because they don’t have any role in the region. There might be some forces who want to damage the cause of Pakistan and Pakistani cricket.”

Possible attackers

Pakistani analysts, including retired General Hamid Gul, who is a former head of the ISI, blame India’s RAW.

However, there is no precedence for RAW having the capability to carry out such attacks in Pakistan. Its operations in Pakistan have been of two kinds, according to the records of Pakistani security agencies, documented in files and books narrated by their retired officials:

Small bomb blasts in urban centres.

The use of Indophile political parties such as the Awami League in 1970, the Pashtun sub-nationalist Awami National Party, the Baloch separatist group the Baloch Libration Army and the Muttehida Quami Movement.

However, these parties were always used in a limited political context. For creating a law-and-order situation in the country, RAW has always used bomb blasts and other small-level sabotage activities. It has never had the capacity, like the ISI had in India, to use armed groups to carry out guerrilla activities in Pakistan.

More pertinent is to view Tuesday’s attack in the context of the peace deals in the Swat Valley and the tribal areas which have stopped the fighting between ethnic Pashtun-dominated militants and the Pakistani army.

Prior to the signing of the deals, the matter of the release of militants who did not belong to the Swat area was raised, that is, non-Pashtun militants. These included Maulana Abdul Aziz, who was apprehended while trying to flee the radical Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in Islamabad in July 2007.

However, after deciding on the level of compensation packages for the families of militants killed or injured by the security forces and other matters related to Swat and the tribal areas, the matter of non-Pashtun militants was deferred and the peace agreements were signed.

In effect, non-Pashtun militants have been ignored and the attack in Lahore could be a bloody message to the government that the “Punjabi militants” have the capacity to cripple urban centres at any time and place of their choosing.

Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online’s Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can be reached at saleem_shahzad2002@yahoo.com