Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Kicking into our own goal


It is reported that the officer and the four soldiers, of the Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol, arrested and detained for days by a special police team recently, are contemplating legal action against violation of their fundamental rights. Details of the would-be lawsuit are not yet known but many a human rights lawyer of eminence is said to have offered to help them with their case free of charge.

Deep penetration operations are a closely guarded secret. They are suicidal missions. It takes years for some of these operations to be planned and executed against numerous odds. Long rangers by taking the battle close to the Tigers’ den have proved the capability of the Sri Lankan army to beat Prabhakaran at his own game - guerrilla warfare.

These men are seldom seen but their missions much admired. The killing of the terrorist kingpin Shanker, described as Prabhakaran’s right hand man, was blamed by the LTTE on these deep penetration units. When Tamil Chelvam, the notorious terrorist masquerading as a politician, had a narrow escape some months ago, the mine attack was also blamed by the LTTE on these groups.

It is also said that by the time the LTTE declared its unilateral truce, the LTTE had been compelled to restrict the movements of its leaders due to the successful forays of Long Rangers of the army. Withdrawal of these units from their territory is also said to be one objective of the Tigers’ truce.

It was alleged that the widespread pre-election violence unleashed by powerful ministers of the previous regime was with the help of certain military personnel. Some of them have already been arrested. So, when a tip off was given, the police team that arrested the Long Rangers for want of information to the contrary and perhaps being innocent of their existence, may have plunged feet first into action not knowing what they were really doing or the gravity of it. There had been no communication, as reported, between this police team and the military high rankers about the Long Rangers and their safe house.

But these police officers should have known better in that such operations are usually done undercover. Identity of the suspects and the details of their arms and equipment are kept secret to facilitate investigations. On the other hand, the police were dealing with an officer and his soldiers and they should have been cautious and wise not to create a bull-in-a-china-shop scene.

Over-enthusiasm often takes precedence over senses but this must not be so with a special police team led by a senior officer. At least after the arrests, the police should have restrained themselves and checked with the military top brass whether the army officer was telling the truth without subjecting them to humiliating treatment.

These long rangers, the pride of the Sri Lankan army, had, according to press reports, been treated like common criminals. They had been languishing in a remand cell following arrest and some ‘brave’ policemen had heaped abuse and humility on them. Ironically, the detention of these men combating terrorism had been carried out on orders issued by an SSP under the very Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), introduced to enable those dealing with terrorists to do so effectively. It is unfortunate that the arrest of these deep penetration men should have come at a time when the real terrorists are moving about freely thanks to the on-going truce.

It is a matter for happiness that Defence Minister Tilak Marapana saw to it that the military personnel were released and their names cleared albeit late. He should be thanked for having made that bold decision given the political twist that was being given to the incident.

As for the police and all others, who had a hand in the arrest of these long rangers and exposing their identity and safe house, they well and truly kicked into our own goal.

It behoves the government to prevent repetition of such unfortunate incidents. A public apology must be tendered to the officer and the soldiers concerned.


Vigilante Killings Fuel Cycle of Violence by Amantha Perera

COLOMBO, Jan 9 (IPS) - As the funeral procession carrying the coffins of five Tamil students, victims of Thursday's alleged vigilante killings, wound through the streets of the port town of Trincomalee, there were whispers among the mourners that retaliation would be swift.

The mourners burned down military checkpoints, emptied out for the procession, and warned visitors and journalists to leave town. Revenge was clearly in the air.

And sure enough, the Saturday morning calm in Trincomalee bay was shattered by a loud explosion -- a naval patrol craft had been rammed by an explosives-laden fishing boat, killing 13 of the 15-man crew on board.

The defence ministry later confirmed that the patrol boat, which was utterly wrecked, had been attacked by suicide bombers from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), also known as the Tigers.

That strike, the biggest against the Sri Lankan military by the LTTE since the February 2002, Norway-brokered ceasefire, was one more sign that the Tigers were ready for a revival of the two-decade-old civil war on the island.

Initially, the military maintained that the five Tamil youth had died when a grenade in their possession exploded accidentally. But medical examination of the bodies revealed that they had each been shot through the head.

The Tigers accused the Special Task Force (STF), an elite commando unit of the Sri Lankan police, of picking up students and shooting five of them through their ears. ‘'This is a planned attack against the Tamil people,'' S. Ellilan, the LTTE political head in Trincomalee told IPS.

Some newspapers, notably the Sunday Times, carried reports naming a retired police officer, now high up in the government, of having ordered the killings.

But STF inspector general Nimal Leuke denied that his commandos were involved.

Based on the spate of attacks and counterattacks, internationally-known security expert Rohan Gunaratne told IPS that he expected the Tigers to ‘'return to war and unless Sri Lanka builds a professional intelligence community and a fighting force, it will suffer gravely.''

"This is a very big concern to us," the head of the Nordic staffed Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), Haugrup Hakland said. The mandate of the SLMM, however, limits it to a supervisory role and does not include any peace-keeping or implementation capacity.

Norway's special peace envoy to Sri Lanka, Erik Solheim, is due on the island on Jan. 23, in what is seen as a decisive visit to salvage the situation. But civilians in the war torn Jaffna have already had enough and are evacuating to safer places.

With the increasing attacks, President Mahinda Rajapakse, who assumed office last November, has come under pressure from his hawkish, pro-Sinhala electoral allies to adopt a tougher stance against the Tigers.

"This incident should not be considered as just another violation of the ceasefire agreement. By this attack the tiger terrorists have indicated that they are prepared to escalate terrorist war, in a wrapping of peace, to level,'' the People's Liberation Front (PLF), a Rajapakse ally said in a statement.

"President Rajapakse's administration should take actions to apprise the countries concerned about the peace process in Sri Lanka and take decisive measures to defeat Tiger terrorism in any manner they ask for,'' the PLF demanded.

The new President has thus far not changed his willingness to reopen negotiations despite the string of attacks. The Tigers and his administration have to first agree on a location for talks. Rajapakse prefers an Asian destination while the Tigers insist on Oslo.

Even the international stakeholders in the peace process have had limited success in trying to halt the violence. The United States, European Union, Norway and Japan met with the LTTE political leadership last month but came away empty handed.

Soon after Saturday's attack on the naval patrol craft, the U.S. state department voiced concern over the deteriorating situation.

The mid-sea attack was only the latest episode in a cycle of violence that began on Dec. 4 when an army patrol was ambushed at Kondavil in northern Jaffna, killing seven soldiers. A week before that, Velupillai Prabhakaran, the reclusive Tiger leader, had warned that if Rajapakse failed come up with a viable power devolution proposal, the Tigers would revert to war.

Prabhakaran, the undisputed chief in more than two decades of hostilities against successive Sri Lankan governments since the mid-1980s, has been demanding a separate state for the country's minority Tamils in the north east of the island.

More than 65,000 lives have been lost in the fighting that has split the country's majority Sinhala community and the Tamils. The February 2002 ceasefire has held so far, though direct negotiations between the government and the Tigers have stalled since April 2003.

Since the Dec. 4 attack, government security forces have been targeted both on land and in the sea. According to the defence ministry, Saturday's attacks brought the number of servicemen killed over the past month to 65. Military spokesman Brig. Prasad Samarasingha described some the attacks as well planned and coordinated. "The Tigers have always tried to attack the forces, now they are using civilians as cover," he said.

The Tigers, for their part, have denied any responsibility for the attacks. "We are investigating what happened, but we are not responsible for the attacks," Ellilan said.

In fact, the Tigers charge the government with deploying deep penetration units to carry out attacks on selected cadres inside Tiger held areas. Three mid-level Tigers were killed in two such attacks last week. One took place just hours after the naval attack in Trincomalee.

The Tigers say that the military is using the services of cadres loyal to renegade commander Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan -- their erstwhile eastern military leader, who broke ranks and defected to government areas in April 2004. The military has denied any link with the rebel Tiger or his loyalists.

Meanwhile, a shadowy organisation, calling itself the Tamil Resurgence Force (TRF), has claimed responsibility for at least three recent claymore mine attacks on government forces.

Letters released by the group in Jaffna said the group consisted of civilians who were armed and ready to attack the security forces and the Tigers have been openly giving basic military training to civilians.

The TRF says that it is carrying out attacks as retaliation against harassment and violence by government forces. After 13 sailors were killed in the north western island of Mannar, on Dec. 23, the TRF claimed responsibility saying that it carried out the attack to avenge the alleged rape and murder of a Tamil woman in northern Jaffna.

During the funerals of the five slain youth, the TRF announced that Trincomalee would observe indefinite closure of public and private establishments till all new sentry points set up by the military are removed.

Unlike in Tamil-dominated Jaffna and Mannar, Trincomalee has large populations from the two other main ethnic groups, Sinhala and Muslim. Samarasingha acknowledged that the situation was delicate.

Civilians are taking no chances and most Tamils are heading for Tiger-held Last week, the Tigers said that at least 450 families had arrived in their political headquarters, Kilinochchi.

Visitors to the town said the figure could be as high as 1000. The military has reacted by arguing that most of the evacuees are either directly linked to the Tigers or have been trained by them.

But the signs are ominous. The last time such an exodus took place was in 1995, when government forces launched an all out assault to wrest control of Jaffna from the Tigers.

LTTE declares emergency in Wanni by: D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) leader Velupillai Prabakharan has declared a virtual state of "emergency" in the tiger controlled regions of the Northern mainland of Wanni in the aftermath of senior leader Vaithilingam Sornalingam alias Col. Shankar being killed by a claymore mine on September 26.

The overall deputy commander of the LTTE's military division Col. Balraj has been given special powers by the tiger chief to take all measures necessary to eradicate the selective assassination campaign conducted against its high-ranking leaders allegedly by a "deep penetration commando unit of the Sri Lankan army".

Balraj while functioning as special commander of the Manal Aaru or Weli Oya region will focus his energies on preventing more infiltration into tiger-controlled areas by the army, tracking down assault units in the jungles and weeding out all suspected informants and collaborators among Tamil civilians.

Fifty-two-year-old Col. Shankar, the man in charge of the LTTE's air wing, anti -aircraft unit and military intelligence, was killed when a claymore mine was triggered off at 10.45 a.m. in the general area of Oddusuddan.

He was travelling alone in a two seater four wheeled pickup vehicle from Oddusuddan to Puthukkudiyiruppu along a seven-mile interior road when the land mine was activated.

Defence Ministry Spokesperson Brigadier Sanath Karunaratna has denied army involvement in the attack and attributed it to infighting within the LTTE.

Shankar has been associated with Prabakharan for nearly three decades and was responsible for several pioneering ventures.

He set up the first office of overseas purchases to procure arms and armaments which is now run by Kumaran Pathmanathan alias "KP".

Shankar was also the founder-commander of the Sea Tigers division, underwater attack unit, the antiaircraft unit and the air wing division.

He possessed a variety of qualifications including certificates in marine and aeronautical engineering and a pilot's license.

Shankar was a trusted deputy of Prabakharan and was associated with him on several important missions including the trail-blazing meeting with Norwegian Special Envoy Erik Solheim at Mallavi on November 1 last year.

Apart from Shankar other senior leaders like Gangai Amaran, deputy chief of the sea tigers, Nizam, political head of Batticaloa - Amparai, LTTE and Mano, communications chief of the eastern tigers, have been killed in similar claymore explosions.

LTTE Deputy Military Wing Chief Balraj, Political Wing Head Thamilchelvan and senior commander Jeyam have also been targeted but escaped through luck.

The tigers suspect the army deep penetration unit of infiltrating the jungle regions of the Wanni from the military complex in the Weli Oya region.

They also suspect some Tamil civilians of being informants and collaborators in this.

It is felt that these persons are either doing it for monetary gain or are sympathisers of anti-tiger groups or a dissident faction supporting former LTTE Deputy Leader Mahendrarajah alias Mahattaya who was executed on charges of treason.

Tamil sources in the Wanni told The Sunday Leader by telephone that the LTTE's special commando unit known as "Leopards" and the civilian militia called "Ellaippadai" have launched an intensive scouring of jungle areas in the Wanni to comb out if possible the deep penetration unit.

The border areas have also been provided enhanced security through regular tiger cadres and the special civilian militia.

The tiger intelligence wing has commenced an elaborate campaign to detect informants and collaborators. Several houses have been searched and many taken in for interrogation on suspicion.

All such activity is coordinated under the command of Balraj who has been entrusted with this task by Prabakharan

" There is an emergency like situation here and the tigers have said that they will exercise full powers to prevent this assassination campaign," said a Tamil resident from the Wanni.

Analysts feel that the Weli Oya military complex would be subject to a security cordon amounting to a siege by the LTTE to prevent suspected infiltration.

The scenario is different in the east where at least five Tamil civilians have been arrested and executed by the LTTE for being involved in the assassination campaign. These were persons who had smuggled in explosive devices to be used in ambushes for monetary gain.

The LTTE has claimed that 37 bombs were detected and confiscated by them in the East after an intensive search

The LTTE has been greatly angered by the latest killing of Shankar and has issued a statement warning the government that "prospects for peace have been further set back by the killing of this senior LTTE leader"

(The Sunday Leader - 30th September 2001)

Deep penetration hit squads: deep probe essential by: D. B. S. Jeyaraj

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.

Covert action

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.

Dirty tricks

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.

Stark reality

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.

Total dismantling

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)

10 wanni tigers missing after attack from Karuna faction

10 members of wanni tiger organization have disappeared after an attack by members of Karuna faction of the tiger organization in an area at Morawewa in Trincomalee.


Batticaloa leader of Wanni Tigers under house arrest in Kilinochchi

Army intelligence sources say that political wing leader of the Wanni Tigers organization for Batticaloa Ilanthairayan alias Marshall has been summoned to Kilinochchi and detained under house arrest. He has thus been put in house arrest on charges of raping women Tiger cadres and other women and misappropriation of money. He has also been ousted from the post of the political wing leader for Batticaloa..

There are reports that Tiger leadership has summoned Ilanthairayan alias Marshall to Kilinochchi and interrogated him at length about the frauds he is said to have committed. Military wing leader for Ampara, Ram too has been called to Kilinochchi along with Marshall and no decision has yet been made about his expulsion

Security sources are in doubt that the internal crisis within the Wanni Tiger organisation will aggravate if both of them were ousted at the same time.

Daya Mohan has now been appointed as the acting political wing leader for Batticaloa, but as Wanni Tiger leadership has lost confidence in him, he has not been confirmed in this post. Army intelligence sources have discovered that there are allegations against Daya Mohan too.

Ilanthairayan alias Marshall and Ram were summoned to Killinochchi three or four days ago. Wanni Tigers who suffered a heavy setback in the face of attacks from Karuna Faction will go into serious crisis in this situation.


Karuna Faction kills four Wanni cadres

Army intelligence sources say thy have received information that Karuna Faction has again started to launch attacks on Wanni Tigers organization and two attacks came yesterday and today the Vaunative and Wakare in Btticaloa.

These sources added that five members from both these parties were killed in these attacks. Two Wanni cadres each were killed in vaunative and Wakare and one cadre of the Karuna Faction has also been killed n Wakare, Army sources said.

Wanni Tiger organization has reportedly shot woman Samurdhi officer at 2:30 pm yesterday(11) at Thenmarachchi in Jaffna.

Inquiries have revealed that this woman who was hardcore member of the EPDP has been shot at by the pistol gang of the Wanni Tigers organization. She met with her fate wile she was traveling Thenmarachchi Road.

This woman who sustained serious injuries in the incident has been admitted to Jaffna Hospital. Jaffna police are conducting further investigations in to the incident.