COLOMBO, AUG. 15. A series of claymore mine explosions in LTTE- controlled areas targeting senior LTTE leaders has given rise to speculation that either a ``deep-penetration'' unit of the Sri Lanka Army is at work or that feuds within the rebel group are behind the incidents.
The state-run Daily News reported today that a claymore blast had seriously wounded a former bodyguard of the LTTE leader, Mr. Velupillai Prabhakaran.
Quoting intelligence sources, the newspaper identified the cadre as Jeyam, and said he was the ``chief bodyguard'' of Mr. Prabhakaran from 1990 to 1994. The incident took place in Periyamadhu in the LTTE-controlled Vanni ``a few days ago,'' the report said.
This is the sixth such incident in LTTE-controlled territory. The LTTE political wing leader, Mr. S. Tamilchelvam, escaped a similar attack at Kokkavil in May this year while travelling through the Vanni to meet the Norwegian facilitator, Mr. Erik Solheim, but one of the cadres escorting him was killed.
In another claymore attack, this time in Mannar district, the LTTE sea wing deputy leader, Gangai Amaran, was killed along with his wife and child and the driver of the Pajero in which they were travelling.
Within a week of this incident, Balraj, a senior fighting cadre, was targeted at Nedunkerni. Again, it was a claymore blast. He escaped but six cadres in an escort vehicle were killed.
Nizam, a senior cadre in charge of the political wing in Batticaloa and Ampara, was also killed two months ago in Vavunatheevu, which is under LTTE control, in a claymore attack.
Claymore mines are fixed at a height, usually on trees, and triggered by remote control.
The Government is putting out that the attacks are evidence of growing rifts within the LTTE, and that rival groups within it are carrying out mafia-style killings against each other.
One theory which gained ground immediately after the attack on Mr. Tamilchelvam was that it was the work of those in the LTTE against peace talks. The political wing leader is said to be a staunch supporter of talks with the Government.
The LTTE, on its part, is taking the attacks seriously, and perhaps even panicking that a hit-group targeting its leaders is now among its ranks. It said the attack on Mr. Tamilchelvam was the work of a ``deep-penetration unit'' of the army.It believes this unit is working with LTTE renegades who know the area well. According to Tamil sources, leaflets have been distributed to civilians living in LTTE-controlled areas to be vigilant and not to entertain or even speak to strangers. ``Would you betray your own?'' one leaflet asks.
Soon after the Nizam incident, the LTTE ``police'' in Batticaloa declared that they had information that 30 claymore mines had been smuggled into its territory, and carried out several ``arrests.'' According to reports, five of the ``arrested'' were executed summarily in public.
Four of the six routes in Batticaloa to LTTE- controlled areas have been closed down by the LTTE so that it is better able to monitor the daily traffic of traders and others in and out of these areas.
According to unconfirmed reports, the LTTE carried out ``arrests'' in the Vanni too after the killing of Gangai Amaran and the attack on Balraj and two weeks ago.