Thursday, September 16, 2004
The issue of the Tigers' pistol groups, which finds mention at times in sections of the media, has resurfaced with last week's gunning down of a Tamil informant, Ragupathi, on the outskirts of the city — reportedly the fourth "informant'' who was killed by the LTTE's pistol group for his role in the Army's Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol which eliminated some LTTE leaders inside rebel-held territory before last year's ceasefire agreement.
Military analysts see the patrol, which reportedly eliminated some Tiger leaders, as among the factors that pushed the rebels towards cessation of hostilities.
"For more than 15 months now, Tiger cadre had launched a bitter campaign to eliminate the informants and punish civilians in the East who have been helping them'', a report in The Sunday Times said.
All four victims till now reportedly hailed from Batticaloa district, where the Army patrol is said to have been active.
The newspaper gave the name of the first of such victims as V. Vidyarthan, "who was abducted and killed'' last January in Batticaloa.
Last July, Lance-Corporal Savundarajan, ``was abducted and killed'', also in Batticaloa.
In December, another informant, Ganeshamoorthy Tillekerajah, was shot dead. Ragupathi, who was shot dead by "two men on a motorcycle'' on March 11 was the fourth victim, the newspaper said.
The Patrol had run into a controversial fiasco before the ceasefire was signed last February, when police raided one of their safe houses and the operation which was under wraps, came into the public.
A presidential inquiry commission is not probing the fiasco, the newspaper reported.
SLMM head meets LTTE commander
The new head of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, Trygve Tellefsen, met the LTTE Trincomalee area commander, "Colonel'' Pathuman, and the Trincomalee district political head, Tilak on March 21, the Tamilnet web site reported.
Maj. Gen. Tellefsen, who has taken charge from Trond Furuhovde, discussed issues relating to movement of LTTE cadres in the eastern Trincomalee district, the report said.
The three eastern districts, which together have a near equal mix of the island's three main ethnicities is a volatile flashpoint and is considered by political analysts as the "weakest spot'' in the fragile peace process.
Copyright 2000 - 2004 The Hindu
Already identified as being members of what is now termed the Karuna faction, the killings are another in where more than a dozen people have been murdered over this last month. All the killings have been attributed to the LTTE taking revenge on a renegade Tiger.
The only credible assumption to this theory may arise from the fact that it was the LTTE that informed journalists in the south of the brutal murders at Kottawa last Sunday.
A senior LTTE cadre telephoned a well known Tamil journalist just 10 minutes after the shooting and told him that persons identified as being Karuna loyalists have been murdered at a house in Kottawa off Malabe Road. The police and apparently the military too were later alerted to the killings by the journalists who acted on the LTTE tip.
Since the murders last week there have been many theories and counter theories. The Kottawa house rented to give shelter to the renegades is believed to have served as a safe-house. Whether the seven Tamils and one Sinhalese killed in the shoot-out were working as spies for Sri Lanka's military is not yet established. The Defence Ministry and the army however have vehemently denied such speculation insisting that neither the seven Tamils nor the one Sinhalese man had any links to the military or police.
What they were doing inside this house - who they were waiting for; what was the purpose of their having rented out this house; and for how long did they intend to stay; are all questions that still beg answer. The fact is the entire investigation is shrouded in secrecy and the police are under very strict instructions not to leak information. Reliable sources said the rent paid per month for this house was Rs. 11,000. Who paid the rent is not yet clear.
One aspect however is crystal clear and that is that these killings clearly portray the fact that despite a ceasefire, the violence that has plagued Sri Lanka for two decades is nowhere near ending.
Neighbours living around the mystery house maintain they noticed nothing amiss before the killings, but said later they "heard" many vehicles pass their homes which they believed were visitors for people in this house. Asked to describe what kind of vehicles they were, they say they do not know.
The LTTE being the first to inform the south about the killings said from the inception that seven of those murdered were part of the Karuna faction. The LTTE however have not claimed responsibility but insist the killings were carried out by dissidents within the Karuna group. The LTTE later announced on its website that these victims had been killed by "dissidents" within the Karuna faction and that the killers had later sought refuge with the LTTE last Sunday morning, having fled Colombo after committing the murders. Hours before the government was even aware of the killings some web sites both Tamil and foreign had broken the story.
The government has refrained from identifying the LTTE as the killers. Deputy Defence Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake would only trot out the same lame statement he made when an attempt was made on the life of UPFA Minister Douglas Devananda by saying none of the murders or attempted murders are a threat to the peace process or the ceasefire agreement between the LTTE and the government. According to Wickremanayake the killings are all a result "of internal conflicts" within the LTTE and so, he is of the opinion the government need not worry.
Wickremanayake's complacency is not matched by the international community. Deputy Chief of Mission, Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, Hagrup Haukland three days after the Kottawa murders said "as far as we are concerned this is a very serious incident and one that certainly does not make our work any easier on the ground."
His comments are backed by the Norwegian facilitators. Norway's Deputy Foreign Minister Vidar Helgessen told journalists last week following his meetings with both the government and the LTTE that the ceasefire is very seriously under threat, warning that such incidents all contribute to an erosion in confidence building measures to kick-start peace talks. "What we see is a frozen war starting to melt on the edges" Helgessen said, maintaining that recent violence in the east and Colombo had contributed greatly to a high degree of mistrust between the government and the LTTE. "The ground situation is unhelpful in restoring confidence between the two parties," he reiterated.
But Helgessen's pessimism was quickly downplayed two days later when Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera was quoted saying Oslo is exaggerating the current situation and that the peace process is nowhere near breaking down.
Whatever the government's position on the overall ground situation, they are heavily contradicted by members and organisations of the international community who have been closely monitoring the conflict situation in Sri Lanka.
Human Rights Watch (HRW), a U.S. based independent nongovernmental organisation said in a media release Wednesday, "A spate of killings between factions of the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) threatens Sri Lanka's ceasefire... More than a dozen people have been murdered over the last month in apparently politically motivated killings attributed either to the LTTE or a faction led by the LTTE's former eastern commander, Colonel Karuna, who broke away from the LTTE in March 2004."
No army personnel
HRW's release further referred to last Sundays killings in Kottawa saying, "Even before the police were notified of the killings, the LTTE announced that these victims had been killed by 'dissidents' within Karuna's own faction, and stated further that the killers had sought and received refuge with the LTTE." The killers according to the LTTE contacted the Tigers after arriving in the Amparai District on Sunday morning.
The LTTE commenting on the incident said in their website that "dissidents within the renegade Karuna group killed seven associates of Mr. Vinayagamoorthy Muraleetharan (Karuna) because of differences within the group." LTTE also said that Karuna associates "were accommodated at a military intelligence safe house in Kottawa, in the outskirts of Colombo."
The LTTE continues to accuse the government of being involved with pro-Karuna loyalists and have accused the army of using these men to serve as military intelligence operatives in the east. The government has vehemently denied the accusation. However, sections of the local media as well and international press have reported that the government's denials lack credibility.
The seven dead Tamils at Kottawa were identified as Kuhanesan, Castro, Kesavan, Ruban, Atparan, Vikky and Vimalkanth.
Kuhanesan acted as the second in command to Karuna in the renegade group. According to press reports and the LTTE's media release, Kuhanesan was one of the 14 members of the renegade group arrested in June at a Buddhist temple in Hingurakgoda at Polonnaruwa, before being released apparently at the intervention of military intelligence.
Defence Secretary Cyril Herath denied the eighth man among the dead was an army intelligence officer. "The Directorate of Military Intelligence of the Army Headquarters categorically denies army's involvement in the above incident and Sri Lanka Army further assures that no military intelligence operative is among the dead," the Defence Ministry stated in a press release. The military claims the eighth man was a tractor driver from Polonnaruwa unknown to the military and government.
Credibility in doubt
What he was doing with the Karuna associates is however a significant aspect to this incident. The fact that the body of a Sinhalese was found at the scene of the killings places the military and the government in a bad light, lending doubt to the credibility of their denials that the men were not part of a para-military group working for the Sri Lanka Army.
Time is running out
Reports of Bandaranaike escorting Karuna to Singapore first appeared on Thursday week before, when an MP of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) protested the involvement of the Tourism Minister in assisting Karuna.
Bandaranaike subsequently denied any involvement but the government did not clarify the matter further other than to get a state sponsored daily to issue a one paragraph story last Monday denying The Sunday Leader report.
When District MP for Jaffna, M. K. Sivajilingam raised the matter in parliament, Anura Bandaranaike said, "I have never had any contact with (Karuna) before his defection or after his defection from the LTTE. I have never indulged in the part time of accompanying unknown persons to any destination in the world."
However, Sivajilingam, speaking to The Sunday Leader, said Bandaranaike along with two Special Task Force (STF) personnel accompanied Karuna to Singapore. He also said Karuna did not use the VIP lounge at the Katunayake airport but instead used the lounge meant for intelligence officials.
Sivajilingam said that it has finally been proved beyond doubt that cabinet ministers have strong links with Karuna and declared that the Sri Lanka government and the President should not continue to live in denial.
"We are not worried about whether Bandaranaike accompanied Karuna or not but the real issue is that the government is attempting to conceal the fact that it has links with Karuna. The government and the President should stop lying to the nation that Karuna is not close to the government for now it is an established fact," he said.
The LTTE meantime increased its charges against the government and the latter's involvement with Karuna and his loyalists. LTTE Political Wing Leader S. P. Tamilselvan issued a dire warning to the government saying that it was pushing Sri Lanka to a situation of war. "The LTTE will not start the war but if the government imposes it on us we are ready to fight," he said. Elaborating further he said, "If the government fails to realise the ground realities we will have to take some serious decisions."
And with the warnings from Tamilselvan and Vidar Helgessen came another. This one was from Major General Trond Furuhovde, head of Sri Lanka's Monitoring Mission who rubber-stamped what his deputy, Hagrup Haukland also said. "The SLMM has strongly urged the government to take meaningful and effective action to curb the activities of paramilitary groups including that of Karuna faction and the EPDP," Furuhovde, was quoted telling S. P. Tamilselvan, when they both met in Kilinochchi.
(www.sundayleader.lk , 1st August, 2004)
Two policemen stand guard at the house in which the killings took place. Even now, the neighbourhood does not seem to have grasped the enormity of the calamity that struck virtually at their doorstep.
When The Sunday Leader visited the area the roads were literally deserted. The house directly opposite the place where the murders took place was closed up as the owners were at work. People in the neighbouring houses appeared to be going about their work, very quietly. They told The Sunday Leader that when they heard the shots that Sunday morning, they thought they were firecrackers being lit for a wedding nakatha and didn't think twice about it. It was only after the police and the media arrived at the scene at about 11 a.m., did the neighbours realise what had happened.
According to a report by the National Intelligence Bureau, the killings took place at around 3:20 a.m. at a house owned by Prasad Kulasekera who is currently in India. The new tenants moved in on July 2.
Kusuma Gunewardena lives with her retired husband and two children just across the little gravel lane down which the crime took place. "We really don't know who leases out these houses. Unless we stand near the gate, we can't see any movement either. But recently I commented to my daughter that since the new people moved in, the vehicles arriving at the area had increased considerably. However, none of us knew which house the vehicles were going to," said Gunewardena.
Despite the criticism being levelled at the police about the fact that they had to be tipped off by a media report, the fact remains that in this particular neighbourhood a murder in broad daylight could go unnoticed for days, perhaps weeks.
"The police scolded us for not being more vigilant," said Disna Siriwardane, a mother of two living close by. "I suppose they had a point. None of us know each other very well, and we rarely venture out of our houses at all," she said, adding that the incident had made her become extremely shaky once night falls.
As for the scene of the crime, Siriwardane said she didn't even know there was a house down that lane until she heard about the shooting. Studying the surroundings, it's easy to see why such a house would be used to store hideaways. The gravel lane at the bottom of which the house is situated is completely blocked from view of those travelling along the road by grass grown over five feet tall and fairly dense forestation beyond. The only place from which the house and the activities going on inside could be seen, would be from the house directly opposite, where the neighbours said a couple lived with their young daughter.
The Kottawa-Malabe Road is a much travelled one and just beyond this little sleepy neighbourhood, is a bustling junction and plenty of activity. How many such ghost neighbourhoods must there be in Colombo and its suburbs, and what kind of activities are going on in them is anyone's guess.
(www.sundayleader.lk , 1st August, 2004)
Ranaviraja explaining the increasing crime rate in the country said plans are afoot to seek the assistance of the STF to bust crime which has reached alarming proportions. He expressed his confidence in the STF saying that "With the type of training the knowledge and skills you have acquired you could help police reduce the crime rate in the country."
The government will provide all assistance to achieve your goal and meet your dedicated theme " victory assured," he said.
The Secretary to the Ministry of Internal Security inspecting a guard of honour accorded by the STF commandos at the S4:02 PM headquarters yesterday. On his right is STF Commandant DIG Nimal Lewke.
A safe house has to be behind enemy lines or in close proximity there to, and absolute secrecy is a must. According to the statement of the Director Military Intelligence [D.M.I.] Capt. Nilam on being recalled to Colombo was initially attached to the "Forward Intelligence Cell", which was then located at the army camp at Kohuwela. This same intelligence cell and not a "safe house" was shifted to the house belonging to Capt. Nilam's wife, within a housing scheme at Athurugiriya. The reference to this secret intelligence cell as a safe house confuses the issues consequent to the discovery of the storage of high explosive materials and lethal weapons therein.
An issue arises of the storage and the establishment of unauthorised arsenal, however temporary, without due regard for the safety and security of the said stores and the neighbourhood too. According to established Military procedure the minimum requirement was the provision of an armed guard at least as a temporary measure until these high explosive materials were transported to and returned as ordered by the D.M.I. These measures would not have been necessary, if in keeping with the usual army procedure, that arrangements were made to return these explosives without delay on the arrival of Capt. Nilam with these lethal stores.
This should also have been the response particularly in view of the very serious allegation that army had plans to blast the bus with the Prime Minister in it, with a thermobaric rocket; and also the Army Commander's assurance denying the existence of such a plan.
The relocation of this "Forward Intelligence Cell" at Athurugiriya from the army camp at Kohuwela as described above cannot be said to be appropriate as the decision to lease the house belonging to Capt. Nilam's spouse as it would also amount to a conflict of interest.
But, there are important requirements for an intelligence cell. That is the assurance of secrecy, security and convenience to those informants visiting this intelligence cell at the new location at Athurugiriya. In fact such informants must be made aware of the risks and other dangers that they may expose themselves to, which also applies to intelligence officers as well. It is most important that the identities of informants are secret and that even from the other informants too. Such exposure would be only if it is a necessity. These requirements appear to have been meaningless as access to this Millennium Park cell was subject to one's identification by the civilian security staff at the gates of The Millennium Park. Further, the informants would be conspicuous on their ethnicity and social status being mostly Tamil LTTE deserters.
According to the D.M.I. Capt. Nilam was at that point of time under "serious threat" from the L.T.T.E. and therefore had to be under the active surveillance of L.T.T.E. agents. According to Capt. Nilam, his information was that he was to be targeted by a suicide bomber. In this context the move from the Kohuwela army camp to Athurugiriya with Capt. Nilam in charge of this intelligence cell is not only inexplicable, but perhaps even suicidal.
It is said that Capt. Nilam and his men were based at this cell to engage in long-range reconnaissance patrols [L.R.R.Ps], and deep penetration fighting patrols. Such patrols are a special task of well trained infantrymen and sometimes of the commandos. Troops from services and non-combatant units are not deployed on such tasks or roles. The D.M.I. and Captain Nilam are both from non-combatant units.
Fighting patrols engage in offensive operations such as ambushes, raids, destruction or attacks on enemy installations, gun position and emery outposts and even abductions of enemy cadres for purposes of interrogation to obtain intelligence etc. These operations and the planning of such operations are the function and responsibility of the combatant formations on the ground in forward positions. Intelligence officers are attached to such formations to furnish the necessary information for the planning of such operations.
The responsibility and function of the Directorate of Intelligence is to obtain and furnish timely and accurate intelligence to the respective operational formations, which is a very important requirement to ensure properly planned successful operations both offensive and defensive. It is not understood, therefore how a group of simple informants were engaged in deep penetration and long-range reconnaissance patrols.
These patrols require a high degree of infantry skills in addition to mental and physical toughness as they are dangerous and risky. The planning of such deep penetration patrols have to be meticulous and provision has to be made for several contingencies, sometimes even for rescue or even betrayal by accompanying informants on some occasions. These patrols may be over several days and communication with the base would be mostly by code requiring a high degree of communication skills too. It would take quite some time to condition even trained infantrymen for such patrols. These patrols are beyond the scope and functions of The Directorate Of Military Intelligence but are under the authority and responsibility of The Directorate Of Operations And Planning. These patrols are launched from forward positions nearest to the enemy area to be patrolled, and not from alleged "Safe Houses" very many miles away.
Covert Operations are also a very important form of military operations particularly in the context of anti-terrorist action. These operations have to be handled with caution. There is always the risk of infiltration by L. T. T. E. agents etc. It has been reported that once these agents entrusted with explosives for such a mission had straight away taken the entire lot of explosives and handed them over to the L.T.T.E. The L.T.T.E. would have obtained a wealth of information too from this agent. The handling of such "informants" or more appropriately "agents" is a skilled and a dangerous task. There was also the exposure of the training of an informant in the firing of thermobaric rockets at the Panaluwa Range. The bane of our military effort against the L.T.T.E. terrorists over the last twenty years has been the lack of accurate and timely information. This was also a finding by the Court of Inquiry into the debacles at Pooneryn. This was also undoubtedly a factor in the subsequent debacles at Mullaitivu and Elephant Pass. Good timely and accurate intelligence is an all-important factor in military operations against terrorists.
Furthermore, the expenditure on intelligence is secret and also not subject to audit. In addition to the requirements mentioned it is desirable that the Director of Intelligence is an officer with a combatant background and operational experience. It should be so in respect of the other officers too as far as possible. Such officers would be better equipped to assess and evaluate the intelligence in the correct perspectives, and exploit them to the best advantage.
There was an alleged involvement of army personnel in election violence particularly at Udathalawinna, where several civilians have been killed by shooting. The suspects are mostly serving soldiers, and there was some information or perhaps speculation that of one the suspects was hiding in Millennium City hideout, which by then had become an open secret.
What is not understandable is this thermobaric rocket and other explosive materials being still retained in an unauthorised location and readily available for use in spite of the assurance to the UNP hierarchy by the Commander of the Army that there was no such preparation to blast the bus with the prime minister in it. According to the D.M.I., he had ordered that the explosives be removed on the 28th of December 01.
This had not happened, although it should have been a first priority task. The police raid was on the night of 2nd January 02. What did eventually happen should be viewed in the light of the possible dangers such as a fire even accidental, or sabotage or even betrayal similar to the fate of the Police Inspector at the Dehiwela Police Station. In that context Capt. Nilam would need to have been mindful of the threat to him by a suicide bomber as the "cease-fire" had been proclaimed only a couple of weeks ago.
Military spokesman Colonel Sumedha Perera has urged media personnel to be cautious when they deal with issues regarding the glossary of military terms.
Colonel Perera, referring to a discussion which took place on the Sirasa News Line programme on March 26 between 7.30 am and 8.30 am regarding a safe house maintained by military intelligence personnel at Millennium City, Athurugiriya, has explained the military's point of view on the reference made to the 'Safe House'.
He was described a safe house as 'a house or a flat provided with suitable cover and held at the disposition of the intelligence service for secret meetings or the temporary lodging of an agent under safe conditions. It is difficult to maintain a safe house within an enemy concentration area, where it would be particularly vulnerable and they are more often used i an area outside enemy territory where the intelligence service enjoys some measures of protection.
"Further according to American Intelligence pamphlet 'In the Intelligence Trade, a safe house is a secret refuge for spies engaging in covert operations and in the Glossary of Intelligence Trade Idioms defined safe house as a 'seemingly innocent house or premises established by Intelligence organisations for conducting clandestine activities in relative security.'
"Therefore, Army Headquarters is of the opening that it is best to leave issues of this nature to professionals in this particular field."
Interior Minister John Amaratunga on Friday said he was anxiously waiting to receive a letter from the President directing him to launch investigations into the police raid at the 'safe house' at Millennium City, Athurugiriya.The Minister said that he had not received any letter from the President regarding this issue and added he will give an appropriate answer when he received the letter.
LTTE Weapons Being Unloaded And Personnel Recruited While UNF Looks On by Suranimala-The Seeing Eye Of Serendib For LankaWeb
A second unloading of an LTTE Arms Shipment off a container in the high seas carried out yesterday under cover of darkness by a flotilla of Sea Tigers under the eyes of the Sri Lankan Navy under orders from its high command to stay aloof has been reported in a shocking turn of events which must not only embarrass the Wickremasinghe Administration but must also expose the indifference of the Defence and Foreign Ministries which have failed to take prompt action in remaining passive and content to resort to meaningless rhetoric full of lame excuses as in the case of the previous unloading of Arms by Sea Tiger Flotillas in early January where both events went relatively unnoticed or deliberately ignored by the authorities and reliable sources have learned that there is strong speculation within Sri Lanka that these shipments have been unloaded with the full knowledge of the Administration which has turned a blind eye to its reality.
The implications it carries towards National Security based on what it believes to be a necessity in order to preserve the Peace Process is the most stupendous display of apathy uptodate where Messers.Wickremasinge, Marapone and Fernando have shown little emotion or response towards the concerns of many worried Sri Lankans now asking many relevant questions as to what is going on and why there is every indication that the UNF Government has set itself on a path of self destruction should the Tigers unleash yet another wave of terror based on the manner in which they have re-commenced arming themselves and recruiting new personnel?.Based on fact and not conjecture!
Many LTTE propagandists overseas are alleged to have openly proclaimed that "their targets and objectives now seem to be within easy reach" and appear to have been on course ever since the UNF victory at the December Election while also stating that it would be a mere matter of time before their strategy of cunning will finally reap huge benefits for them one way or the other and are patting themselves on their backs in disbelief that something which seemed unattainable during the tenure of the PA Administration is now well within their sights and that they expect to easily infiltrate into Sinhalese populated areas, have free movement in once Restricted Waters which were controlled and secured by the Sri Lankan Navy and their greatest expectations lie in recovering control of the Northern and Eastern Provinces in their preliminary push towards Eelam which they have in fact presented to the discerning eye in their latest demands.
The fact that these might not be vain boasts have been proven in the past especially considering the LTTE attacks on the International Airport and Air Base and the planning behind what proved to be their capability of implementing the element of surprise very effectively and are the Security Forces likely to be caught napping yet again? Will there also be more ridiculous raids such as the one involving crack Secret Task Force Officers as in the Athurugiriya Safe House to embolden the LTTE and reveal chinks in the armour of National Security directives while hog tying it prior to another LTTE offensive?
Although these proclamations might be sheer speculation on the part of the LTTE propagandists and doomsday may never be real, when considering the realities of their status quo as proscribed terrorists being pursued by International Law Enforcement Agencies, although within the parameters of Territorial Sri Lanka attempts by the near sighted Administration to manipulate the jurisdiction in favour of LTTE demands while citing the Peace Process and its importance is very possible though hopefully not without stiff Presidential Opposition even though it appears to be onerous for the President who must surely be faced with the dilemma of appeasing more than one entity rather diplomatically while asserting her bounden duty to the Sinhala Nation without compromising its Security. A vital consideration which the Wickremasinghe Admisitration seems unconcerned about while the weapons stockpiles and the headcount of new LTTE recruits are increasing rather alarmingly!
The petitioners of this case were Cpt S H M Nilam, P Ananda Udalagama, H M Nissanka Herath, I Edirisinghe and Mohamed Hilmy. The court determined that fundamental rights – freedom from torture, right to equality, freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention of the petitioners were violated.The court awarded Rs 800,000.00 to each petitioner as compensations and costs. Rs 750,000.00 of this will be payable by the state and the balance will be payable by ASP Udugampola in his personal capacity. 29 patriotic intelligence operators had already been murdered by the LTTE because of this exposure. The lives of the petitioners and their immediate family members are also under threat of the LTTE.
(30 January, 2004)
COLOMBO, JULY 31. A key anti-LTTE intelligence operative, Kandiah Yogarasa (better known as `PLOTE Mohan') was shot dead in the heart of Colombo city this morning by suspected LTTE gunmen.
Mr. Mohan (41) was gunned down with a 9 mm pistol around 11.20 a.m. local time on the normally busy Duplication Road, in the heart of the city. Military analysts see today's killing as "a prize hit" by the Tigers who "have been gunning for him for several years." An eyewitness saw Mr. Mohan being shot dead, "but was unable to describe the killers." The lone witness to the murder "is not sure if the assailants were on a motor-cycle or a van, but had said that they escaped in a vehicle," a senior police officer said.
Eight spent 9 mm cartridges were seen scattered near Mr. Mohan's blood-swamped body, which lay spread-eagled on a sidewalk near a popular shopping mall. There were no other casualties, primarily because the normally crowded road was nearly empty as the nation was on Poya (full moon) holiday, for the second time in a month — popularly defined as blue moon.
High up on hit list
The gunning down of the Mr. Mohan, described as one who was "very high" on the LTTE's hit-list, was literally the `once in a blue moon' strike as he "was truly feared by the Tigers and escaped several attempts in the east," a former militant said. As Mr. Mohan "was very fastidious about his personal security, the murder in broad daylight is shocking."
The slaying, he said, is seen as "a clear indication that the LTTE is not for a peaceful negotiated settlement." Concerned over the continued attacks on anti-LTTE operatives, defence analysts said the Government was "using them and abandoning them to appease the LTTE to come back to talks."
The Norwegian facilitators on Wednesday cautioned that Sri Lanka's "frozen war" was "starting to melt at the edges." Oslo also saw the declining security situation — a fallout of the rebellion by the LTTE's former military commander, V. Muralitharan — as the "bigger impediment" to restarting the stalled peace talks, compared to "differences in the agenda between the Government and the Tigers."
Today's murder brought Sri Lanka's most-feared `Black July' month — which saw a suicide-bomb attack on July 7 and a massacre near Colombo last Sunday — to a bloody end. Military analysts see in the killing of Mr. Mohan "a pre-emptive strike by the Tigers, as he would have played a key role when fighting resumes." The LTTE has not commented on the killing.
Mohan, who joined the People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) in 1983, left the group in 1994, and emerged as a key anti-LTTE operative. More recently, he was reportedly linked to the military's Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols (LRRPs) before the February 2002 ceasefire agreement (CFA) was signed. Defence sources viewed the hits on LTTE leaders by the Deep Penetration Units of the LRRP as a key factor for the Tigers to enter talks in 2002. After the CFA several "Tamil informants" linked to the LRRP, were shot dead in Colombo and in the east.
© Copyright 2000 - 2004 The Hindu
"LTTE negotiator Anton Balasingham claimed in a speech on 7 April in Geneva that the Sri Lankan government’s Long-Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) had infiltrated the Tiger-controlled areas of the northern Vanni region.Mr Balasingham says that a claymore remote-controlled mine was recently found on a road on which LTTE leader V Prabhakaran was scheduled to travel. A search operation was ordered and thousands of Tigers combed the jungles of Vanni to apprehend LRRP members.
The LRRP is part of the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI), directed from a secret location in Athurugiriya. According to Colombo newspaper Sunday Times, this safehouse was raided on 2 January by Kandy police, who found weapons and arrested six soldiers. Unauthorized operations were alleged, and police filed a case against Army chief Lionel Balagalle and Director of DMI Kapila Hendavithana. A Commission headed by former High Court judge Dharmasiri Jayawickrema is probing DMI operations conducted from the safehouse in Athurugiriya.
The LTTE claim that the LRRP is trained by foreign intelligence services and responsible for the killing of LTTE leaders, Col. Shanker, Col. Nisam and Lt. Col. Gangai Amaran. They say others such as Col. Balraj, Col. Jeyam and political leader SP Thamilchelvan have also been targeted. The Army have denied LRRP operations in the north-east, but say that LTTE hit squads have penetrated the capital Colombo.
Sources allege that Tiger intelligence chief Pottu Amman has issued an order for the elimination of all members of the LRRP and other informants. According to press reports, at least 20 military intelligence operatives have been murdered since the ceasefire in February 2002. Former LTTE member Lingasamy Devarasa, was shot on 26 April by two people who arrived in an autorickshaw. He later died in hospital. The incident took place at Kohuwela in Colombo. Mr Devarasa had helped in LRRP operations in Batticaloa District.
Another LRRP operative and former member of Tamil group PLOTE, K R Ragupathy was killed in Mt Lavinia on 18 March. The security forces have introduced new security measures in Colombo, including checkpoints to track down the Tiger hit squads. Observers believe that the Tigers may have informants within the military and warned that there will be more deaths."
(www.tamilnation.org , 7 April 2003)
Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols (LRRP), also referred to as deep penetration hit squads are very much in the news today. Reputed political commentators are hailing President Kumaratunga for officially sanctioning the LRRP project and giving the green light for hits on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) command structure. The continuing inquiry of the Athurugiriya arsenal regularly throws up fresh yet sordid details of how a deadly 'secret weapon' like the LRRP covert action programme could be subverted for purposes not originally intended. It was the Athurugiriya incident that exposed the LRRP secret to the world at large.
Media reports reveal that persons connected with the LRRP are being systematically hunted down by the Tigers. An elaborate campaign is underfoot to blame conscientious police officers for doing their duty diligently and make them scapegoats for the LRRP fiasco. Efforts are being made to deflect attention away from the frightening ramifications of that episode and propagate a viewpoint that the country's national security has been compromised. Army Commander Lionel Balagalle has appointed a military court of inquiry with a restricted mandate that can only result in that tribunal functioning as a 'kangaroo court' and arrive at an obvious and foregone conclusion.
There is however much obfuscation and distortion of the real facts surrounding the LRRP covert action programme. The trial by media of the persons involved can only disclose partial truths. The loaded probe commissions initiated by Balagalle whose hands are extremely unclean on this matter cannot be informative in an impartial sense either. Persons involved in the Athurugiriya incident have been threatening to seek 'justice' for quite a while now without translating their words into action. Such a course of action should be welcomed as judicial proceedings held in an open court could shed more light on the dark and murky LRRP project.
It is doubtful whether those 'affected' by the Athurugiriya arrest will ever come forward and seek a legal remedy despite the self-righteous howls because of the dictum 'seek justice with clean hands.' Even if such a development occurs, the trial could only elicit part of the truth. What is required therefore in the larger interests of the country is a full-fledged public probe into the whole LRRP project with special emphasis on what transpired at Athurugiriya. Such a probe could de-mystify the LRRP hit squad project for what it is worth and prevent vested interests from misusing such types of covert activity for ulterior purposes.
Engaging in covert action projects to combat the Tamil guerrilla movement was first mooted in the mid-eighties when Lalith Athulathmudali was national security minister and Ravi Jayewardene security advisor under the J.R. Jayewardene government. Various blueprints were formatted by Israeli Shin Beth operatives and ex-SAS British mercenaries The go-ahead was given for some acts. The most notorious of these were some of the massacres of Sinhala civilians in the border areas. Hit squads impersonating Tamil militants executed them. Others involved fomenting friction between Tamils and Muslims in the east.
When the LTTE succeeded along with other groups in confining the army to military camps in the peninsula and creating a semi-liberated state in Jaffna, attempts were made to infiltrate and assassinate top Tiger figures. It is unclear as to how successful these missions were but Lalith Athulathmudali himself boasted to some foreign correspondents that the assassination attempt on former LTTE Jaffna Commander Sathasivampillai Krishnakumar alias Kittu was a "hit" scored by Sri Lankan intelligence. It was not publicised much in the Colombo based media. Subsequently Athulathmudali's claim was disputed by other observers who felt it was an internal matter. After the fall from grace of Gopalaswamy Mahend-rarajah alias Mahattaya the assassination bid on Kittu was also attributed among many things to his machinations.
The setting up of Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols to infiltrate LTTE controlled territory and assassinate top Tiger leaders was proposed to the Kumaratunga regime in 1996. It was suggested first by 'freelancing' intelligence consultants linked to the state. Plans were formulated in furtherance of this idea by Lionel Balagalle who was then the director of military intelligence. It is an open secret in defence circles that the LRRP project was fathered by Balagalle himself who was very much attached to this pet project.
When the LRRP project proposal was submitted to President Kumaratunga for approval she rejected it out of hand. Kumaratunga, to her credit, abhorred such types of covert activity then. With her background of being involved in fiery French student politics of the late sixties, Chandrika hated all types of covert action for which the CIA was blamed then. Kumaratunga's policy as president was to defeat the LTTE militarily and not indulge in low level covert action. The project was shelved temporarily.
It was resurrected in the aftermath of the assassination attempt on Kumaratunga in December 1999. Kumaratunga re-elected as president was angry and vulnerable. Shedding her earlier inhibitions she approved two covert action projects. One was the elimination of persons suspected of being LTTE supporters or sympathisers in the south. Intelligence operatives had already monitored activity of some targets and had even established links with some of them.
After getting the go-ahead signal, a high profile Tamil lawyer cum politician was decoyed away from home and gunned down brutally in Colombo. A red herring that a Sinhala fascist outfit was responsible was strewn across the trail. The reaction to the killing was tremendous with a massive public outcry. With the finger of guilt being pointed by many to the then occupant of Temple Trees, the powers that be became worried about continuing with that project and so it was put on hold. Thus many other Tamils on that list are alive today.
The second project of setting up LRRP teams was also approved by Kumaratunga in 2000 but that too was put on the backburner because of the fallout to the first phase of the "elimination of the Tiger network." Also, the Norwegian facilitated peace process had begun and attempting to infiltrate the Wanni and assassinating LTTE leaders in the Wanni would have been problematic then. Subsequently in 2001 the governing elite in Colombo found the ongoing peace process an embarrassment. It was decided to provoke the Tigers into abandoning their unilateral ceasefire and resorting to war again. The LRRP plan of assassinating top LTTE leaders was regarded as suitable to goad the Tigers into war again.
Even as the plan was being put into action the armed forces launched a massive operation code-named 'Agni Kheela' to retake Elephant Pass. It was routed conclusively by the LTTE. This made the defence top brass realise that invading and acquiring Tiger territory through frontal assaults was ruled out for the time being. So insidious LRRP hit squads had to be deployed not only to disrupt the peace process but also as a means to hit back at the enemy. The state had been reduced to the level of 'terrorism.' If the LTTE could infiltrate the concrete jungles of Colombo and wipe out human targets, the LRRP too could do so in the north east jungles was the logic. The successful LTTE attack on Katunayake spurred the deep penetration squads further.
The LRRP was a top secret project launched covertly by military intelligence. But Defence Ministry circles say that Lionel Balagalle was personally supervising the programme from its inception. Specially trained commandos and from the special forces were deployed. Also inducted were Tamil and Muslim ex-militants from the north east. They brought in the intelligence input and knowledge of terrain required. The Muslims were from the home guard units doubling up as groups known as 'Jihad' and 'Hizbullah' etc. The Tamils were ex-LTTE men from the 'Mahathaya' faction, members of the EPRLF's 'Razeek' group and from the PLOTE faction led by Mohan. Some of these were inducted into the army as regulars while others collaborated on an assignment basis. Some Tamil civilians were also paid well to provide information and safe houses.
The LRRP squad made its first big hit by exploding a claymore mine at Kokkavil. LTTE Political Wing Chief, S.P. Thamilchelvan was targeted but the wrong vehicle was blown up and it was only the bodyguard who succumbed. Thamilchelvan was on his way to meet Norwegian Peace Envoy Erik Solheim at Mallavi. The LTTE charged publicly that the "claymore blast was set off by a deep penetration team of the Sri Lanka Army." Defence Ministry Spokesman Sanath Karunaratne denied government forces were responsible. "We have no involvement whatsoever in this," Karunaratne said. "This is an area where we don't have our troops."
Thereafter, several such attacks occurred at regular intervals in the north east. Top LTTE leaders were targeted. Among those killed were Pirapaharan's close friend and confidante, Col. Shankar, the head of the LTTE Air Wing. Lt. Col. Gangai Amaran, the deputy chief of the Sea Tigers was killed. Major Nizam, the eastern regional intelligence head was also killed. Among those who escaped assassination attempts were Thamilchelvan, Deputy Military Chief, Balraja, Wanni Commander, Jeyam, Batticaloa-Amparai Commander, Karuna Amman and Eastern Regional Political Commissar, Karikalan.
The LTTE's accusations that an army deep penetration squad was responsible was denied by the state. Instead counter propaganda that the killings were due to internecine fighting between LTTE cadres was propounded. Ironically the army denials were believed by many in the south because they never thought the armed forces were capable of such successful strikes. On the other hand, the armed forces enjoying some degree of success through the LRRP project could not flaunt it publicly. They were denying the only successful project they had launched in many years.
This was because the LRRP project, though euphemistically termed as covert action, was nothing but an exercise in cold blooded assassination. It was a glaring example of state terrorism. If the LTTE was terrorist because it targeted prominent government figures in Colombo and killed innocent civilians as 'collateral damage,' the LRRP assassinations also could be described as terroristic. It was not top LTTE leaders who alone died, but also civilians. A pathetic example was the blowing up of a tractor with civilians at Vaakharai in the east. Thus, in spite of the high degree of success achieved, neither the government nor the armed forces could take public credit for it. No democratically elected government claiming to fight a just war and dependent on western aid could own up publicly to deploying killer squads deliberately. Likewise no self-respecting army could claim responsibility either.
The LRRP activity however troubled the LTTE greatly. The Tiger reputation of impregnability and invincibility had been eroded greatly. Moreover the LTTE supremo Pirapaharan himself was vulnerable. The Tigers combed the north east jungles and border areas with their leopard commandoes and also the border security forces. The intelligence wing conducted a deep and wide ranging search. Also top LTTE leaders changed their mode of travelling in a bid to avert attention.
The LTTE was successful to some extent initially in identifying civilian accomplices and uncovering safe houses in the east. Five persons including a woman were executed and 29 claymore mines seized. A Tiger suicide bomber exploded himself in Batticaloa town and killed three Tamils working on the deep penetration project as part of military intelligence.
A major windfall for the LTTE was when the Tigers arrested a group of five men in the western regions of Batticaloa in December last year. They were suspected to be LRRP squad members. It was a heterogenous mix of Tamil, Muslim and Sinhala persons. Although some initial publicity was given in LTTE journals, a news blackout set in soon after. Obviously, the Tigers were keeping the matter under wraps for further interrogation and information gathering. Interestingly there was not a whimper in the south regarding this development.
This was understandable because officialdom could not accept openly that the killer squad was theirs. It was thought then that the LTTE would expose the capture of LRRP men at a conveniently time and embarrass the state. It is now believed that upon finding the group had been responsible for some killings the squad had been executed. Also, much information about the inner workings of the LRRP squads was also gleaned. This however was not put to much use as the December 5 elections saw Ranil Wickremesinghe becoming premier, leading to a transformation of the political climate.
The discovery of an arms cache including thermobaric weapons at Athurugiriya along with 66 LTTE uniforms and cyanide capsules was a further revelation and confirmation of the LRRP phenomenon. It proved among other things that the deadly and destructive thermobaric fire bombs were being used by the army. Balagalle had denied such allegations earlier as these weapons are tabooed by most civilised nations. Few governments would use them against their own people.
Moreover the discovery of LTTE uniforms, cyanide capsules and the presence of Tamil speaking personnel indicated that the 'dirty tricks department' was capable of conducting terrible acts and pinning the blame on the LTTE.
Interestingly enough and to the eternal shame of any professional army, the arrested persons through media outlets blew their cover wilfully. No covert action group or person would ever own up if captured or arrested but the Athurugiriya crowd did so. They claimed that they had engaged in LRRP work in the east and that they were in Colombo in that respect. In one move, the covert action programme was exposed by persons wanting to be freed from arrest, After an inexplicable initial silence, Balagalle also began to support the group who were later released.
It was widely suspected that there was a plot to assassinate Wickremesinghe and pin the blame on the LTTE. The squad in Athurugiriya was thought to be part of that. The explanation proffered eagerly by the arrested persons that they were part of a LRRP team was seen as an excuse to avoid apprehension. Patriotism and interests of national security inevitably invoked by anyone needing to hide anything sinister were bandied about. What many suspected was that the covert action programme was being abused to wipe out a political rival.
There were also reports that the five arrested at Athurugiriya had nothing to do with the LRRP squads at all. The police officer investigating the case has been pilloried and pressurised but nevertheless continues with his probe in a dogged manner. If Defence Minister Marapone and Internal Security Minister Amaratunga realise the gravity of the situation there is no doubt that the matter would not be treated in this way. But then certain ministers of this government are proving to be great disappointments in political acumen and administrative efficiency.
The Athurugiriya arsenal affair and consequent publicity provided the LTTE and the world with ample proof of deep penetration squads. It was indeed hilarious to see a bunch of 'toughies' claiming to be covert actionists pleading for clemency by admitting they were covert operatives; probing policemen were being accused of compromising national security. Suddenly the LRRP secret became a public achievement. Kumaratunga was praised for sanctioning such state terrorism. It was portrayed as the single biggest military achievement of the armed forces.
In fact the LTTE was perceived as being prepared to talk peace only because the Tigers feared the LRRP teams. It was indeed pathetic to see knowledgeable persons ignoring the stark reality behind the covert action project and proclaiming it to be a 'legitimate' success. It was like the American public lulling itself into a false consciousness about the Vietnam war through Sylvester Stallone and Chuck Norris movies. The LTTE however obtained the concurrence of the government in tabooing the deployment of LRRP squads in the north east in the ceasefire accord. The Tigers also got the CFA to stipulate that no Tamil paramilitary group would be allowed to function in the north east with arms. The Tigers thought that with these ceasefire agreement provisions, the deep penetration squad problem would go away. But it did not and the next twist was when the LTTE discovered signs of a plot to place explosives at a point close to where LTTE Leader Pirapaharan was staying. It was this that influenced the LTTE into staging massive security arrangements for the LTTE leader's press conference on April 10.
With the rekindling of suspicion that the deep penetration squads were being activated again, the Tigers began a hard response. Without adequate proof, complaining to the monitoring mission was ruled out. Instead a counter strike was planned. Intelligence Wing Chief, Pottu Amman travelled to the Eastern Province on a special mission to strengthen the intelligence network there. An important aspect of that enterprise was to focus on the activity and support structure of the Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols. Thereafter, reports are emanating about Tamils involved in the covert action project being targeted, one in Colombo too was shot and wounded. As long as state agencies cover up the covert activity and target the LTTE in more ways than one, retaliatory responses will recur.
What is needed therefore at this juncture is the total dismantling of this covert action project. If LRRP acts continue clandestinely, then the Tigers too are likely to reciprocate. Moreover, the LTTE would eliminate Tamil collaborators as vengeful punishment and also to demolish the LRRP structure. Censuring and compelling the LTTE to desist from such activity can be successful only if the Directorate of Military Intelligence stops its provocative acts. The dogs of war must be called off by both sides.
In order to ensure that the Ranil Wickremesinghe government should know clearly and exactly all the ramifications concerning the LRRP project, it is imperative that the government knows what is happening in order to protect itself. There are many observers who feel that the government has not awoken to the harsh reality behind the Athurugiriya arsenal. It is very necessary that a detailed investigation be launched into the entire covert action project particularly at a time when Kumaratunga and cohorts are planning a prime ministerial 'change.' The deep penetration hit squads need to be probed deeply in the interests of national security and the nation at large.
(The Sunday Leader - August 11, 2002)
He said the SLAF had decided to purchase three more K 8 aircraft to replace the three aircraft damaged during the Katunayake attack in July 2001.
Speaking to journalists after a passing out parade of Air Force officers at the Diyatalawa camp, he said the new aircraft would be brought from China on easy payment terms over a period of six years.
For the first time guerrillas placed a formal advertisement in newspapers to invite applicants to join the newly-established auxiliary force where the applicants will be given a six-month armed training.
The move was aimed at strengthening the depleted forces of the LTTE after being hit by a large number of desertions from the movement following the departure of renegade LTTE's Batticaloa-Ampara leader Karuna who has also discouraged new cadres joining the movement.
"We will provide the military training and place them in various LTTE projects, but when the need arises we use them for fighting," LTTE 'Police Chief' Nadesan told The Sunday Times.
The interviews were open only for "citizens of Thamil Eelam" and strict screening procedures were to follow to prevent the infiltration of rival groups, including loyalists of Karuna.
The fresh recruitment drive came as the UNICEF yesterday accused the LTTE of continuing to conscript youth below 18 years and continuing to violate the agreements reached with the UN agency.
The UNICEF said that since April, 159 children had been recruited by the LTTE and such recruitment was continuing (see separate story on Page 6). This is the first time the LTTE is setting up an auxiliary force where cadres are being directly recruited with a salary of Rs. 8,500 a month.
According to the UTHR, recruitment of children by the LTTE, mainly in Batticaloa and Amparai districts is continuing. Tiger representative in the Batticaloa unit of the SLMM, S Sinnaiah said in September 2002 that there were 12,000 underage recruits from all districts of the north-east in the LTTE. The Tigers have pledged to the UNICEF that underage recruits will be released. Some have been set free.
But UTHR says that from mid-January to mid-February, LTTE forcibly removed 70 youths from Murakkottanchenai, 12 miles north-west of Batticaloa town. On 3 March, 14 year-old Rangesh Linganathan was abducted from Puthur village, near Batticaloa town. UTHR alleges that the LTTE told the boy’s parents that he would be killed if they complained to the SLMM.
Violence flared in Muthur after the mother of one of the missing youths committed suicide on 15 April. In addition to the deaths, 13 Tamils and five Muslims were wounded. According to Muthur Pradeshiya Sabha (regional council), 6,779 Muslim, 1,118 Tamil and 34 Sinhalese families were displaced in 34 Grama Sevaka (Village Headman) divisions. They have taken refuge in mosques, schools and churches. Over 100 houses in several settlements were damaged or burned. In Muthur alone 40 houses were reduced to ashes.
The police imposed a curfew in Muthur from 1.15pm on 18 April, after a shooting incident in Kaddaiparichchan, two miles east of Muthur, in which six people were injured. More troops were deployed on the streets with orders to shoot any law-breaker.
Government ministers Rauf Hakeem and Mohamed Maharoof, were sent to Trincomalee on 15 April by the Prime Minister to diffuse tension and attend to the needs of the people. But they soon began querreling among themselves over political differences.
A discussion took place between a Muslim delegation and LTTE leaders on 22 April, in the presence of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission. A statement issued by both sides called for immediate end to violence, urging the government to maintain law and order in areas under its control without taking sides. The LTTE undertook to ensure the safety of Muslims in territory under their control. Both parties agreed to cooperate in achieving peace and unity.
But the following day, unidentified persons shot dead Zainulabdeen Lebbe at Selvanagar in Thoppur, five miles south-east of Muthur. A Muslim woman named Sabeela was shot and injured at Allainagar in the same area. The LTTE blamed a hidden hand behind the shooting, and an attempt to drive a wedge between the Tamils and Muslims.
Further south in Batticaloa District, supporters of EPRLF and LTTE clashed on 13 April at Arayampathy. EPRLF members Subramaniam Jegathevan and Alaguthurai Ganeshan were shot dead. Police arrested three youths and the local magistrate ordered an identity parade.
Paramananthan Ravindrakumar, 37, an Army intelligence officer, was shot and injured in Batticaloa town on 15 April. Two days later, Alayadivembu Pradeshiya Sabha chairman and EPDP member Marimuthu Rasalingam, 42, was shot dead by two assailants at Akkaraipatru, 35 miles further south. Tamil group EPDP says that the LTTE is responsible for these shootings.
SLMM reports that these criminal elements pose a serious threat to the peace process and should be disarmed, but has not identified them. According to the SLMM, no evidence linking either the Navy or the LTTE to the attack has been found. The Tigers and the Sri Lankan Navy have denied involvement in the attack at sea.
The SLMM also says it is not pointing at any specific political parties or groups in Sri Lanka. Observers say there is no other group in the island, other than the Sri Lankan Navy and the LTTE, capable of launching such an attack. Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunge has criticized the decision of the SLMM.
In early April letters to the Navy commander Daya Sandagiri and the chief of the ceasefire monitors Maj. Gen. Tryggve Tellefson, the President accused the SLMM of failing to conduct an impartial enquiry and attempting to equate the LTTE with the sovereign state of Sri Lanka. She alleges that there is much evidence to raise suspicion against the LTTE. The SLMM has always emphasized the need for balance of the two opposing forces for the success of the peace process.
Fishermen in Mullaitivu are afraid to go fishing at sea because of threats by the Sri Lankan Navy. Clashes between the Navy and the Sea Tigers have made the area even more hazardous. The Navy claim they are engaged in Operation Waruna Kirana (Coloured Rays) to protect Sri Lankan territory and have increased naval patrols. Fishermen say their inability to go fishing has resulted in the rise in prices of sea food.
According to reports, an internal naval enquiry has found no evidence of a LTTE attack on the Sri Lankan ship Lanka Muditha. Accusations had been made that on 31 March, the Sea Tigers launched an assault on Lanka Muditha, which was carrying 1,700 soldiers.
The candidate gunned down by the pistol clique of the tiger organization was candidate for Batticlaoa Rajan Sathyamoorthi.
The tiger pistol clique had broken into his house on Batticaloa – Trincomalee road and shot him. A supporter of Rajan Sathyamoorthi too died in the shooting and another who received serious injuries has been hospitalized. Already the tiger organization has committed five election related murders and four of them have been in Batticaloa District.
Deceased Rajan Sathyamoorthi has been gunned down by the Vanni section of tiger organization because he had accepted the leadership of Karuna Amman.
Tigers will not be sole representatives of the Tamils anymore - Ananda Sangaree - LankaTruth [30th March 2004]
The viewpoint spread by the tiger organization that they are the sole representatives of the Tamil people will be proved a lie after the results of the General Elections says Mr. Ananda Sangaree, leader of TULF.
Mr. Ananda Sangaree made this statement at a press briefing he had in the TULF office in Jaffna.
What the tiger organization did all this time was to force themselves on other political parties to get their work done. They also tried to oppress the activities of the other political parties in the North and the East said Mr. Ananda Sangaree.
However, if a free and fair election is held in the North and the East the independent group he represents and other political parties which are against the tiger organization would get majority of the seats and then the tigers’ claim that they are the sole representatives of the Tamil people would be proved a hoax. When this happens the international image of the tiger organization too would be shattered said Mr. Ananda Sangaree.
Tigers’ ghastly act! Exhume, mutilate & burn murdered candidates body - LankaTruth [05th April 2004]
Tiger organization has exhumed the body of Rajan Sathyamoorthy, TNA candidate for Batticaloa District murdered recently, mutilated it and burnt it.
Rajan Sathyamoorthy’s body had been buried in a cemetery at a place called Annapoopathy in Batticaloa. As this was a cemetery said to be reserved for the “heroes” of the tiger organization and their families, the tiger organization has done this villainous act stating that a traitor’s body could not be buried there.
Rajan Sathyamoorth was gunned down last week by the tiger organization as he had expressed his allegiance to Karuna Amman’s faction of the tiger organization. However, at the General Election, 27,432 have cast their preference votes for him.
Though Batticaloa police and the SLMM have been informed of the exhumation of Rajan Sathyamoorthy’s body and ravaging of it, no action has been taken yet.
All TNA candidates elected to Parliament representing the Eastern Province were invited for a discussion with Karuna Amman’s faction.
Accordingly, the discussion was held today in LTTE office in Batticaloa where four of the candidates were present and had discussions with Vishu, the political leader of Karuna’s faction of the tiger organization. The other candidate has not been able to be present as he had gone away on a personal matter.
Five TNA candidates were elected to the Parliament from the Eastern Province and all of them represent Karuna Amman’s faction of the tiger organization. Earlier a candidate was murdered by Prabhakaran’s faction of the tiger organization for his allegiance with Karuna’s faction and many others were threatened with death.
‘Lankatruth’ sources say that Karuna Amman’s faction of the TNA candidates elected to the Parliament have decided to support UPFA in the Parliament.
According to the latest information, reported in the Sunday Leader, (April 20, 2003) the Tamil Tigers are insisting that their demands, raised in Hakone, Japan, be fulfilled before participating in the proposed seventh round of talks to be held in Thailand, between April 29 and May 2. Their refusal to participate in Thailand has nothing to do with SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). Thailand is free of it, according to Thai health authorities. But it has everything to do with the Tamil Tigers once again deciding to dictate terms to Ranil Wickremesinghe, this time on the pretext of “pending the resolution of contentious issues that have arisen subsequent to the talks in Hakone, Japan.”
Threatening to pull out of the talks is the newest and the most effective weapon in the hands of the Tigers. The only other weapon in its history has been brutal violence. Ranil has surrendered to both. This confirms Ranil’s “impotence”, as stated by the Tamil Tigers in their press release of April 12.
Ranil’s “impotence” is visible each time Prabhakaran violates with impunity the agreement he signed with Ranil promising to usher in peace in our time. Ranil cannot even threaten the withdrawal from talks, following the LTTE tactic, for fear of losing the confidence of the international community. Domestically too, he is powerless to use the LTTE tactic because his future in politics depends on keeping up appearances of a man in a hurry to produce peace – a feat that can be achieved only by surrendering to Prabhakaran. Simultaneously, he is aware that cannot afford to let the LTTE pull out of talks at this stage. That would be an admission of failure and his opponents back home would pounce on him saying: “We told you so!”
So he has no option but to protect his back by crawling to the negotiating table, with G. L. Peiris crowing that the talks have not collapsed despite the serious violations of the Ranil-Prabhakaran agreement. So far Ranil has managed to prolong the jaw-jawing, without the talks advancing in any positive direction, by using two weak ploys: 1) ignoring all violations of the LTTE and 2) by surrendering to its demands when it comes to the crunch. G. L. Peiris, however, boasts that it is the “skill” of negotiators like himself that is keeping the talks going.
Meanwhile, Bradman Weerakoon, in thanking the departing Norwegian Ambassador, Jon Westborg, advanced another reason when he said that the previous talks collapsed because there were no international mediators. According to him, both parties are held together by the presence and the participation of the international mediators. NGO pundits present yet another reason when they claim that the LTTE is reined in after September 11and cannot back off now. But the hard reality is that the LTTE is in the talks because it is winning the war which it could not win on the battlefield, thanks to their “impotent” patron Ranil. At no time before had they ever had “a willing coalition” (Ranil + Norwegians) to pull their chestnuts out of the fire. Though they criticize Ranil’s “impotence”, they know that his “impotence” has great benefits to them. They know that Ranil is dependent on them for his future and he could be made to dance to their drum beat. It is a symbiotic relationship in which the LTTE will continue to suck the blood out of Ranil until he has no life left in him.
Ranil’s two weak ploys (mentioned above) were on display for all to see in some of the major incidents that threatened the nation’s security and sovereignty. Take, for instance, the shocking tactics of Ranil’s regime in surrendering to the LTTE demand to disband the elite LRRP (Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol), soon after he invited the Tigers for peace talks early last year. Sinha Ratnatunga, the Editor of the Sunday Times, in his report to the Gulf News (18.4.2003), wrote: “The deep penetration unit (LRRP) were members of the Sri Lankan army supported by members of rival groups of the LTTE. They carried out a series of successful operations against guerrillas before the peace talks began.
Soon after Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe invited the guerrillas for peace talks early last year, the unit was disbanded in the most controversial manner. Police led a raid on the apartment where the unit was based in the outskirts of the capital. The army officer concerned was detained by the police and later released.
Some of the informants who worked with this unit have been later gunned down both in the eastern province and in the capital. The latest victim was from the eastern province two weeks ago.”
If Prabhakaran fears anyone it is the LRRP. They were that close to decimating the leadership of the LTTE when Ranil pulled them out and exposed them as vulnerable targets to the LTTE. Prabhakaran is still paranoid about the LRRP. Last week Anton Balasingham was crying foul saying that the LRRP is roaming the wilds of Wanni to target his dearly beloved fascist leader. To assure Prabhakaran’s safety, in return for his safety from the Tiger suicide bombers, Ranil’s first major move after becoming prime minister was to offer (in the manner described by Sinha Ratnatunga) the severed heads of the LRRP as sacrificial pooja to appease the fascist killer – the man whom Ranil fears most, knowing the fate of the previous UNP leaders who fought Tiger terrorism tooth and nail. This naked surrendering to Prabhakaran, exposing Ranil’s “impotence”, is packaged and marketed as “confidence-building”. But in return for this “confidence-building measure” what has Ranil’s regime got from the LTTE so far? Sweet “llareggub”, isn’t it? (It’s a word coined by the poet Dylan Thomas and it is meant to be read backwards).
Consider also the instance where the LTTE was caught red-handed smuggling arms in the seas off Delft, just at the time the talks were going on Berlin. The self-proclaimed “skill” of negotiator G. L. Peiris was to sit with Anton Balasingham (he is the only person who calls Balasingham “Dr” now) and to concoct a communiqué blaming “a lapse in communication” as the cause of the disaster in Delft. The objective was to appease the LTTE by diverting attention away from the smuggling arms in violation of the Ranil-Prabhakaran agreement and to blame the faulty communication lines – and Peiris seriously expects the public to believe it! He thinks he is smart. But his smartness is as good as all the failed propagandists of disintegrating regimes. Peiris is doing himself and his reputation a great disservice when he tries to imitate the stunts of Goebbels. .
Consider also the consent granted to install a radio station in the Wanni. It was done by violating every law in the book. A foreign agent (Norway) smuggled it in without paying duties. The Peace Secretariat, headed by Bradman Weerakoon, aided and abetted in the smuggling of a powerful weapon that is used to spread racist hatred, violence and fascist terrorism. This must be Bradman’s idea of international community helping to “build confidence” – a euphemism for surrendering to the demands of the LTTE.
Furthermore, the reports of the University Teachers for Human Rights, Jaffna, (UTHR - J) have pin-pointed the fallacies of Ranil’s regime abdicating its moral, legal and constitutional rights in the deluded belief that a fascist regime of terror can ensure a lasting peace for the war-weary people of Sri Lanka. It is generally agreed by all political analysts that such a peace will be as durable as Ranil’s tottering regime. Now, apart from UTHR, there is a chorus of voices rising even from the ranks of the pro-Ranil NGOs, questioning the validity and the effectiveness of Ranil’s regime turning a blind eye to abductions, extortions, killings of LTTE opponents, smuggling of arms, recruiting children, illegal taxes, postponing the core issues at talks etc.
The tragedy is that, in the name of “confidence-building”, Ranil’s regime has deliberately undermined and weakened the constitutional, the legal, the administrative and military structures, along with the territorial integrity and sovereignty, without getting a substantial return. Against all odds, he is going round chanting the mantra that the international community is behind him. But if he has such powerful friends abroad, how come he is forced to surrender each time the LTTE presses its demands? How come the ground realities have not changed in any meaningful way to convince the nation that he has a chance of bringing peace? How come each move made by the LTTE has flattened him to the ground and reduced his image to that of a born loser?
Certainly, having Bush and Blair on his side is all well and good. But how many votes have Bush and Blair in his electorate?
EXPOSED BY A CLUMSY POLICE RAID ON ARMY SAFE HOUSE ONE INTELLIGENCE CHIEF KILLED; TWO SPIES KIDNAPPED By Walter Jayawardhana from Los Angeles
Thanks to the wide publicity given to a clumsy police raid on a safe house of the military intelligence unit of the Sri Lanka Army at Athurugiriya at least one person serving that unit had been killed by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Batticaloa, and many more are in mortal danger, army sources revealed.
The same sources said two more spies serving the unit had been also kidnapped by the Tamil Tigers as a result of the exposure of the raid conducted by Police Superintendent Kulasiri Udugampola backed by the Interior Minister John Ameratunga.
The premises in Millennium Park, Athurugiriya, where the raid took place were rented by the Sri Lanka Army, as a safe house for a unit of the Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) run under the Directorate of Military Intelligence. A police team led by Udugampola raided on the house and arrested the army captain who was in charge of the unit and five soldiers including a former member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who had now joined the unit. The unit was part of a highly successful program by the Sri Lanka Army to penetrate deep into the Tiger territory and assassinate LTTE leaders. Many such as the self-styled Colonel Shanker, a confidante of the Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran had been killed by the LRRP.
Army commander Lt. General Lionel Balagalle dispatched his Director of Military Intelligence Brigadier Kapila Hendavitharana to avoid the clumsy arrest of the very efficient long-range unit from being taken away to be locked up. Hendavitharana reportedly arranged a telephone conversation between Inspector General of Police Lucky Kodituwakku and Udugampola to stop the embarrassing situation. Kodituwakku requested the SP to consider what the army intelligence man had to say. But the SP with alleged UNP connections instead phoned up Interior Minister John Ameratunga and complained there were pressures on him. To back Udugampola Ameratunga sent a senior officer of his ministry. Udugampola then arrested all men and took all weapons in to his custody. They were arrested on a charge of a plot to assassinate Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, now found to be baseless. After all the damage done and under growing protests of the army the UNF government released the arrested.
All this talk about a plot to kill Ranil Wickremesinghe was first published in the official organ of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the Tamil Guardian during November of last year. It was complained to the army commander more or less the same time by the then UNP chairman Charitha Ratwatte and his deputy Daya Pelpola. Many consider it as a plant by the Tamil Tigers with the help of the UNP to destroy the LRRP unit of the army. Both the CID and the Army have found the assassination story baseless.
After details of the highly secretive unit was divulged to the police the Tamil Tigers killed the civil intelligence unit chief of the army in Batticaloa. The man, an ex-PLOTE member , Vidhyadharan was gunned down by LTTE assassins at Kottiyapula near Batticaloa on January 16. On January 21, the LTTE also kidnapped two more spies working for the same unit.
By January 4, the LTTE intelligence unit, apparently after receiving information from Police or political sources close to the Police had launched a crackdown on Tamil civilians suspected to have helped the LRRP teams in the Eastern province. The Sunday Times, a pro-government weekly in Colombo reported that an unknown number of civilians had been taken into custody for interrogation by LTTE intelligence cadres. Many of them could be dead by now, many feared.
The Lakbima newspaper quoted army commander Lt. General Lionel Balagalle of having said that the killing and the kidnapping took place because this meaningless police raid had exposed details of army intelligence. Lt.General Balagalle reportedly charged that because of a politically motivated police officer the patriotic and brave officers and their secret operations were unceremoniously exposed and now the army was finding it difficult to provide adequate security to army men thus exposed and their families.
Meanwhile, the Sunday Times, a pro-government weekly owned by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe' S cousin, Ranjith Wijeyawardene said the arrest of the members of the LRRP unit has turned out to be illegal and all those who were arrested would soon file a fundamental rights case against the government
What was he shooting at? Did he see the enemy? There was no answering fire, no sign of movement in our front. It wasn't a long burst, but it was long enough to destroy the stealth of the insertion.
"What was that all about?" I asked Massoletti as we settled into our defensive position just inside the tree line with our backs to the LZ.
"I don't know," he said. There was a look of disgust on his face. "Maybe he was just taking target practice."
We sat there for about an hour, just to make sure that no bad guy had come around to investigate the firing. Then we headed off into the jungle. There were four of us; LRRPs out of the 2nd Brigade base camp at Fire Base Marylou. Massoletti was Team Leader. He walked point and carried his own radio. Plaskett was next in line, assigned to keeping his eye on the left flank. Finch, who went by the nickname of Putt-Putt, walked third, watching things on the right. I brought up the rear. My duty was to make sure we weren't being followed and to cover our trail as best I could without falling too far behind.
Even though we hadn't been there before, we knew the territory. It hadn't been more than a week before that Massoletti, Plaskett and I had been sitting on top of a mountain on the other side of the valley watching this section of jungle for any telltale signs of the rockets the NVA were firing at LZ Bass, a small American outpost near the village of Polei Kleng. We never did see them launch any rockets but the North Vietnamese hit us pretty hard after we broke up their ambush on a line of APCs by calling in artillery on them. After we were extracted, the team Putt-Putt was on got put on the same mountaintop and had their own encounter with the bad guys.
On this mission our objective was the same, to find the enemy unit that was firing on LZ Bass, but the tactic had changed. Now, instead of watching the hills from the vantage of the tallest mountain, we were to do the job on the ground, to go into the crucible, to find the enemy and to destroy him.
We kept moving until late afternoon, then pulled twenty or thirty yards off the trail and set up our night location. We didn't tempt fate by heating our LRP rations; the smell would carry too far. We ate them cold instead. We shot the bull in low whispers until dark, then Massoletti established the guard rotation and we turned in for the night. Around three in the morning Putt-Putt woke us. "We've got movement," he whispered to each of us as he gave us a gentle shake to bring us around.
In silence we reached for our weapons and pulled them close to our bodies. Four pair of highly attuned ears swept the night. Four pair of hands took their weapons off safe and made them ready to fire. Four bodies coiled to spring into action in the merest instance and four hearts pounded just a bit faster. There are always noises in the jungle; insects and reptiles slithering through the undergrowth or up the bark of trees, small animals scurrying to their dens and the occasional night stalking predator seeking its prey. There are always noises, the problem is separating the normal from the threatening.
Thirty, maybe forty minutes later - nothing. "Sorry guys," Massoletti finally said, "go back to sleep."
We didn't move out until mid-morning. It's best to stay in your night location for the first two or three hours of sun light because that's when the bad guys are prone to be on the move. If your night location is close to a trail they may pass in front of you without seeing you, allowing you to call in artillery on them without being discovered. But they didn't pass by us this morning. Around 9:30 or 10:00 we got ready to take to the trail. It was while we were packing that I realized that I had lost my knife. I always carried a British Commando Knife strapped horizontally across the back of my web belt. My brother had sent me a half dozen of them from the States. I'd given four of them away and kept two for myself, I'd lost one earlier, and now I had lost the second one.
We explored until about noon when we pulled off the trail once again to eat our lunch and listen.
So much of what we did involved listening. In the jungle you could hear a lot farther than you could see. Unmuffled voices, a cough, the clanking of equipment or the snapping of a twig could warn you danger long before your eyes confirmed the presence of the enemy. When the army tested my hearing before discharge they found it much more acute than when I went to Vietnam.
An hour or so later we were on the trail again. It wasn't long before the trail entered a narrow valley and wound down toward the valley's head. Massoletti stopped and pointed down into the valley. "Look at that," he whispered. We followed his finger with our eyes and made out, between the trees about sixty yards ahead, the vague outline of bunkers. "Let's check it out," Massoletti said.
Putt-Putt turned and looked at me as if to say "is he crazy, why does he want to go down there?" I just shrugged my shoulders. Putt-Putt didn't understand Massoletti. Massoletti saw the job that had to be done and didn't hesitate. Our job was to gain intelligence on the enemy, and that intelligence lay in the valley, among those bunkers.
Larry Massoletti remembers:
When we walked down into that valley we were surrounded by triple canopy jungle. The first canopy was heavy under growth, then some taller trees and finally those towering, gigantic mahogany trees. You could hardly see the sky. The first sign that things were not as they should be was the sight of a grass hut, about six feet wide, just as long as it was wide, and about five feet tall. It was pretty startling because I knew it did not belong there. As we walked a little closer I looked deeper into the valley and saw all the bunkers. We left the trail and moved around the contour of the hill toward the head of the valley where we could get a clear view of the whole complex. "If there's anybody down there we could probably stir them up with a few artillery rounds," I whispered. I unslung my pack and switched on the radio. While I made contact with the fire base, Plaskett and Reed retraced our steps a few paces and set out Claymore mines to guard against any unwanted visitors from the trail. I called in the artillery and adjusted it onto the complex. When five or six, one-five-five, H.E. rounds landing in the middle of the complex brought no response, we knew it was empty and safe for closer exploration. We retrieved our gear and moved into the bunker complex.
There were about a dozen bunkers in the complex built in two tiers along the western slope of the hill. The grass hut, the communal area and the kitchen were on the floor of the valley, along the creek that flowed from the valley. There was little of value in the complex, the North Vietnamese carried everything of value with them at all times, but the newness of the bunkers and overall maintenance of the area showed the complex's recent habitation. The place was so fresh it was as if the NVA had been there just a few hours before...
Tom Reed remembers:
At the far end of the complex we found the trail leading up the ridge on the other side of the valley. We climbed steadily up the ridge for about an hour before we reached a plateau where the ascent became more gradual. Just as we reached this level we pulled off the trail to take a rest. Between the trail and us, just where it assumed a steeper descent, was a large dead log. On the other side of us, no more than a couple of yards from where we sat, the jungle opened up into a large field of elephant grass, which swept down the opposite slope of the ridge. It was a good location from which to monitor the trail.
After an hour or so of just sitting and watching Massoletti made a decision. "Set out some Claymores," he said. "We're going to make this our night location."
As a night location this spot had definite strengths and one very distinct weakness. Having an open field that could serve as an LZ at our back was a strength. The log along the trail hid us from the enemy's view until they were right on us, another strength. But our proximity to the trail, no more than 20 feet, meant that any encounter we might have with the enemy would be at point blank range, and as we were almost sure to be outnumbered - this was a distinct weakness. Putt-Putt got another of those looks on his face that indicated that he didn't like the idea and, though I had to admit that I would have chosen a location farther off the trail, I'd been through enough with Massoletti that I trusted his decisions. As for Plaskett, I knew that he too trusted his Team Leaders decision, though if he had had his druthers, he would have preferred to set up in the bunker complex, where he would have the best possibility of getting into a fight.
We set Putt-Putt's Claymore against the log aiming up the trail and guarding the opening to our location. My Claymore was set just opposite the opening, pointing further up the trail. Its' back blast guarded the opening. Plaskett's Claymore was held in reserve.
We settled in for the night, we ate our LRP rations, we talked or we read. I'd finished the paperback I was reading so I asked to borrow one of Massoletti's "Guide Post" magazines. "I didn't know you went in for this stuff," he said handing me one of the inspirational booklets.
"You'd be surprised," I said, "Haven't you heard that there are no atheists in foxholes?" I shouldn't have been taken aback by his skepticism, after all my gambling, drinking and trips to town to visit the 'ladies' weren't exactly secret.
"I just never took you for the spiritual type," he said.
"When I first got in country, I had a Bible," I said. "The minister at my church gave it to me when he heard I was being sent to Nam. It had a steel plate in it and you were supposed to carry it over your heart. When I was in the hospital at Nha Trang somebody stole it. I didn't complain. I figured that he might need either the content or the steel plate more than I did."
When it became too dark to read we turned in. Each man took his watch, an hour on and then three hours of sleep, repeated through the hours of darkness. It was an uneventful night. My last watch began when the first streaks of dawn were painting the sky. I didn't wake my replacement when my hour was up; I called in the 'sunshine' report and let the others sleep a bit longer. Back in the world I wasn't a morning person, but over here and in the jungle, it seemed right. A cup of coffee would have been nice but we were in a cold camp, and GI instant coffee didn't blend to well in cold canteen water. I sat with my thoughts and smoked. I thought of home. I thought about Karen, the girl I'd broken up with just before I came to Nam. I thought about my family, and, I thought about war.
Before too long the camp came alive and I had to leave my reveries. I could tell that Massoletti was trying to figure out what to do next. We had found the bunker complex where the enemy had camped, we had followed and monitored trails that were well worn by their travel, but we had not found the spots where they launched their rockets and we had not found them. I never found out if he made that decision, things began to happen that made his decision inevitable.
The sound that we heard wasn't a distinct sound and it wasn't very loud. It's hard to describe, but it's the sound of heavily laden packs shifting from side to side as they are carried up a hill. Massoletti's arm reached out and pointed silently toward the trail. We turned and watched as first one, then two, then three heads appeared above the log. They looked neither left nor right, but trudged ahead under the weight of the heavy load they carried, up the hill, past the opening and on past us down the trail.
I was closest to them; I swung the strap of my Swedish K over my head and stepped out onto the trail. I dropped the bolt down from its' safety position and squeezed the trigger. Nothing - I tried again - and again nothing.
Plaskett was close beside me. "Use your knife!" he whispered. I reached behind me only to be reminded that the knife was gone. I looked down at the submachine gun and saw that the bolt had hung up in the safety position and had never fallen into the channel that would allow it to fire. I readjusted it but it was too late. The bad guys had disappeared around a bend in the trail.
Massoletti got on the horn and called in artillery trying to drive them back in our direction, but the time lapse and the lack of knowledge of how the trailed twisted and turned, doomed the attempt.
"We'll stay here," Massoletti said. "Those three may decide to come back, or there may be more coming behind them. We've found a good hunting spot so let's use it. But let's put out the other Claymore to make sure that next time they don't get away."
We placed Plaskett's Claymore about 15 yards further down the trail pointing in the direction the bad guys had gone. The charging handle was placed beside the one for the Claymore that was just to the right of the opening. There was nothing to do now but watch and wait.
The morning drifted by, then the early afternoon. Then came the snap of a twig. I was sitting cross-legged facing the open field when I heard it. I spun around and grabbed the two charging handles. Four pair of ears tuned toward the trail, four pair of eyes watched the top edge of the log. One head - then two heads - then three heads - a fourth - and more - appeared above the log. The heads grew bodies as they ascended the hill. But, now, the point man looked left and the point man looked right, and when he looked right he stopped and he turned. He stood staring at me sitting cross-legged and at Plaskett crouching behind me. He was not more than twenty feet away and he was not more than five feet from the back blast of one of the Claymores in my control and not ten feet from the Claymore that Putt-Putt controlled. All was quiet; the only sound was the chattering of Putt-Putt's teeth. Then the point man slowly reached up and carefully hooked his thumb around the sling of his AK-47 and in the same moment pointed his index finger in our direction. I squeezed down hard on the charging handles.
The world in front of me exploded. The body of the point man flipped fifteen or twenty feet into the air and came back to earth with a hollow thud. All of the heads and partial bodies that we had seen above the log, disappeared from view and then another explosion as Putt-Putt's Claymore delivered a coup de grace to any of the lead group who survived the back blast.
Gunfire was crackling all over the place. Massoletti cradled his Car-15 in his arms and started crawling toward the opening. "Where are you going?" I asked.
"I'm going to get the pack off that guy." He said nodding toward the body that lay near the opening.
"Wait a minute," I said. "Let me soften them up first."
I pulled the pin on a grenade, released the handle and let it cook off for a four count, then tossed it over the top of the log. After it exploded I raised up to a squatting position and fired off a magazine from the Swedish K, spraying down the area as best I could. "Go for it," I said coming back down to my knees.
Larry Massoletti remembers:
Reed's Swedish K was going off like crazy, the NVA must have thought it was an M-60 machine gun. Sometimes when the firing got quiet, you could hear an NVA shouting orders to his men. The NVA were so close.
I crawled to where the NVA point man was to get his pack. The first thing I saw was three bodies, the point man and two others. "There's three of them down out here," I yelled back to the team. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw an NVA stepping out from behind a tree. He raised his AK and let go a burst at me.
Stuff was flying up in my face. Plaskett had crawled down behind the log. He saw the guy who was shooting at me at the same time I did and returned his fire. "Got him!" he yelled. If he had not fired when he did I would not be here. He saved my life and I've never properly thanked him.
I pulled back without the pack that had been so important to me only seconds before. I knew I had to call in the contact. "Two Romeo, this is Two Echo we have contact! We're in the same location as last reported. There are a lot of them. Get me artillery!" In a flash I had the battery at LZ Bass. I called for a marker round, but it landed so far off you could hardly hear it. There wasn't time to direct fire from so far away. "That's no good," I yelled into the hand set, "send us some gun ships."
Tom Reed remembers:
War is a dangerous thing. Not only should you be concerned with the damage the enemy can do to you, but you have to realize that the same equipment that can chew up the enemy can also bite you. As the enemy was hunkered down along the hillside out of our view, my Swedish K wasn't much good, so I grabbed my M-79 and tried to lay a few rounds on them. But the hill was too steep; the rounds flew harmlessly well into the valley below. So I increased the angle, still no luck - increased it again till it was nearly perpendicular and wham, a H.E. round crashed into a limb above our heads. Luckily it had not traveled far enough to arm and fell harmlessly to earth in our midst. Putt-Putt tried a more direct approach, he pulled the pin on a white phosphorus grenade and threw it at the bad guy. It hit a tree and bounced back at us. All four of us hit the ground an instant before the white-hot shards went flying over our backs.
I don't know how long we fought - it didn't seem like more than four or five minutes - then we heard the flip-flip-flip-flip of the rotors of the approaching gun ships. A no more pleasant sound was ever heard. Plaskett and Putt-Putt retreated into the field while Massoletti shoved a primer fuse into a bar of C4 and pulled the pin. He tossed it onto the ground that we were evacuating and then lit out to join the others. When he had gotten past me I sprayed down the area with a final blast of submachine gun fire as I backed my way into the high grass of the field. By the time the C-4 exploded I had reached the safety of the group crouched in the grass 50 or 60 yards from the fight.
Larry Massoletti remembers:
When we heard the gunships coming, I told the LRRP on the other end of the radio, we were getting out of there and making a break for the elephant grass. I threw down the C-4 in our position and we all tossed a grenade down the hill to break contact with the NVA. We started running through the elephant grass as hard as we could. We ran in the elephant grass for about fifty yards it seemed and then I made a half circle like a "J ", so we could tell if anyone was following us. We had to stop because I thought my heart was going to jump out of my chest, and I knew the rest of the team were feeling the same thing. That is the hardest my heart had ever beat and it has never beaten that hard since. We waited and no one followed. The gun ships showed and they could see us down in the grass. I guess they could see the bad guys too, because they just opened up on them when they got there. You could see the shredded leaves falling from the trees from the gunfire of the cobras, and I could even see the faces of the pilots as they flew by.
Tom Reed remembers:
One after another they would fly in unleash a salvo and peel off to be replaced by another craft. While this was going on Massoletti got word from base camp.
"They're not going to pull us out," he said. "They're sending in an air-rifle platoon to reinforce us and we're supposed to lead them back to where the North Vietnamese are."
Timing is not always perfect in war. In a perfect situation the gun ships would have been able to remain on station and keep up the fire until the reinforcements arrived. That way the enemy would not be able to get back to the site and retrieve their dead and the intelligence that those bodies might carry. The timing here was far from perfect. The gun ships expended their ammunition and returned to their base and we were left to wait in the LZ for the promised reinforcements.
Despite their name, Air-Rifle Platoons were not equipped with Daisy BB guns. The airmobile concept was born of Vietnam and LRRPs were an integral part of the concept. In concept LRRPs would find the enemy and then would be supported by a rifle platoon that was on constant alert and was able to be helicoptered to where they needed. But even when they are on alert it takes some time for them to get their equipment together, travel to the helicopters, load aboard and then reach their destination. In this instance we waited for nearly an hour for the Hueys to arrive with our reinforcements.
But in time they did arrive. Massoletti briefed the Platoon Leader and First Sergeant and just before we were ready to head back to the contact site he and Plaskett came over to me. "Plaskett wants to walk point on the way back," he said, "but he wants to carry your Swedish K when he does."
"Sure," I said to Plaskett, "if your crazy enough to walk point, you ought to have something with a bigger magazine than an M-16." I handed him the submachine gun and the leather case containing extra magazines and took his M-16 and ammo pouches.
The LRRPs lead the way. When we reached the area of the contact, Plaskett suddenly took off running. He raised the Swedish K and let go a three shot burst, then took off running again. When we got to the top of the ridge we saw him coming back up the hill carrying three North Vietnamese packs.
"When I got to the top of the ridge, I saw an NVA making off with these packs," he said when he got back to the top. "I fired at him but the Swedish K jammed after three shots. He dropped the packs and took off." Twice in that mission my submachine gun had displayed idiosyncrasies, first when I had been unable to remove it from safety to fire at the three NVA that had passed us, and now, when for the only time while I had it, it had jammed. And in both cases the idiosyncrasy had proved to be fortuitous. In the first instance if I had been able to shoot the three NVA we might have been extracted without having found the larger body of enemy troops. In the second instance, the jamming had prevented us from destroying a valuable piece of intelligence. In a metal box in one of the packs we discovered, what we later learned to be, the first sights ever captured for a 122 mm rocket. The box had three neat 9mm holes through it, but each shot had missed the delicate instrument inside. Had the gun not jammed Plaskett would have put more holes through the box increasing the risk of destroying the site.
All of the bodies had been carried away except for one. The point man lay where had fallen, near the opening to the place where we had been hiding. His pack was still on his back and his AK-47 still slung around his arm. Through the barrel of the AK was a shiny grove, made by one of the ball bearings from Putt-Putt's Claymore. Even so, I knew that when he was hit with the force of the second mine there was little if any life left in him.
Larry Massoletti remembers:
When we went back up there to contact area with the Air Rifle Platoon, we went over that dead NVA like vultures. I'm not proud of it but we seemed to want all of his gear for souvenirs. I still have his backpack, belt and brass belt buckle with a star on it, and a picture of a little girl that he carried. Every time I look at that picture I wonder about that little girl, what she knows about her father and what has happened to her since. I also have a piece of the 122-rocket site, it's about the size of a silver dollar, flat and chromed with a small slot going to the middle. I don't know how I ended up with that. I do know that S-2, Brigade Intelligence, was very happy with what we brought in.
The pack of the point man, who would later be identified as the Platoon Sergeant, was crammed with ledger books and documents, the records of the platoon and of the rockets that they had launched. In each of the four packs that we recovered, were packets of rations. Each man carrying a portion of his squad's supply. Also, thanks to the misguided kindness of some Americans, in each of the packs were first aid kits, supplied by the Quaker Church. The packs were repacked and loaded aboard a helicopter which took them directly back to S-2 at Fire Base Mary Lou.
Tom Reed remembers:
Its not easy to look on the body of a human being that you've destroyed. The emotions are so mixed within you that you feel both shame and pride; shame that you've taken a human life, yet pride that you have faced the ultimate life and death challenge and have prevailed. And as the pride begins to well up within you it is tainted by disgust that you had taken pride in the taking of a human life.
The Air-Rifle Platoon decided that they too would spend the night on our battlefield. The platoon leader and first Sergeant sent out listening posts and established a perimeter. Then the Sergeant reached into his own pack and brought out a six pack of beer. It was warm and I don't remember the brand, but I'm sure I've never drunk a better beer in my life.
Plaskett tried to console me that maybe I hadn't killed the man that was laying only a few feet from us, that maybe he wasn't dead when the second Claymore hit him. "Besides," he said, "when you blew that mine you saved my life."
"I tend to think that I would have been in his line of fire too," I said.
The internal struggle between my conscience and my pride continued well into the night, until sleep caught up with me.