Friday, June 29, 2007

Secret warriors behind Iraqi lines

An interestring Newsweek article (1991/06/17) that explains how Commando squads helped win Operation desert Storm.

The role played by special forces in the first Persian Gulf War was virtually unknown to the public.This article explains how how small man teams helped secure a swift victory for the allied forces by suckering the Iraq's army out of position,poking holes in it's air defense and slipping behind enemy lines to spy,sow dissent and destroy scud missiles.

Majority of “abductees” found to have returned

Chairman of the Presidential Commission to probe abductions, disappearances and killings, stated yesterday that he recommended tough action against policemen who had failed to take action to the complaint of abductions and disappearances.

Former High Court Judge, Mahanama Tillakaratne, who headed the commission detailing it’s findings, which was presented to the President recently, stated at a press briefing that that sometimes the police had been evasive in recording complaints. The High Court Judge stated that it was his observation that the police were in a ‘deep slumber’. According to the evidence before the commission some complaints had not been recorded even after the complaints had come to the police station several times and at times people had been kept waiting for over 10 hours to record their statements,” the head of the Presidential Commission said.

The High Court Judge said that the commission was only on a fact finding mission and had no powers to impose punishment. He said he had recommended that investigations be carried out against the police officers by a unit comprising a retired civil servant and a state counsel. Mr. Tillakaratne made this observation while releasing the findings of the commission which looked into incidents of disappearances, abductions and killings over a period from January 1, 2006 to February 25, 2007.

The commission’s head also noted that a majority of the abductions were not exactly abductions as they have left their homes temporally over trivial matters like family disputes among others. During this period 1713 disappearances were reported island wide but out of them in the case of 1002 cases the person reported abducted had returned to their homes. He also noted that according to the evidence some of the abductees when they were last seen seemed to have gone with the people whom they knew and of their own free will. Out of 307 complaints of abductions in 132 cases the alleged abductees had come back. Among the incidents reported were 430 killings.

The incidents were from the nine provinces and the Wanni area. The majority of killings (192) and abduction (702) were reported from Eastern province while the highest number of disappearances was reported from the Western province.

However 450 of them had already returned. 192 killings were also reported from Eastern province while 43 were reported from the western province. The finding had also revealed that some of the victims had notorious backgrounds.

Questioned by the media, the High Court Judge said action would be taken against the persons who are found to be connected or are discovered to be involved in these abductions that have been reported to the commission.


CPA files FR petition challenging Mutur HSZ

The Centre for Policy Alternatives yesterday filed a fundamental rights violation petition challenging the recent regulation issued by the President declaring a High Security Zone in the Mutur Divisional Secretary’s Division encompassing an area of land owned by internally displaced persons.

The CPA and its Executive Director Pakiasoothy Saravanamuttu filed this application seeking relief and effective redress in respect of the infringement of the fundamental rights of a large section of the Sri Lankan society who have been and are being further discriminated against and gravely prejudiced.

They are seeking relief in the light of grave and adverse denial of the due enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms that all Sri Lankans regardless of ethnic, religious or geographical classification are entitled to, which are sought to be denied to a section of Sri Lankan society on the basis of their ethnicity and place of origin.

They cited Defence Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, Defence Ministry Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Commander of the Security Forces (East) Maj. Gen. Parakrama Pannipitiya, the Army Commander, the Air force Commander, the Navy Commander, the IGP, the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka and the Attorney General as respondents.

The petition filed through Attorney-at-Law Mohan Balendra states as follows.

Since April 2006, many civilians in Trincomalee district were displaced due to the continuing hostilities. As a result, many are unable to return to and resettle in their land owned and possessed by them and their families.

They contend that according to international law, internally displaced persons have the right to voluntarily return to their land in safety and dignity and that international law further provides that no person should be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family and home.

On September 4, 2006 the first respondent President Mahinda Rajapaksa stated that Sampur area had been captured by the security forces and he is quoted as saying “Our armed forces have captured Sampur for the welfare and benefit of the people living there.”

Since March 2007, resettlement of persons have taken place in Trincomalee district. There have been accusations of civilians being forcibly resettled. On March 20, Resettlement Minister Rishad Badurdeen admitted that forced resettlement to Trincomalee district from Batticaloa district took place, the petitioners stated. They pointed out that though the civilians were taken to certain parts of Trincomalee, people have been unable to return to Sampur area and that civilians are unable to return to their lands despite the said land falling within the Trincomalee Special Economic Zone, having been declared as a Licensed Zone of BOI Act.

Petitioners stated that in the 2nd week of June 2007, they were further distressed and perturbed to learn of Regulations issued by President Mahinda Rajapaksa under Public Security Ordinance declaring the area of land owned by internally displaced persons as a High Security Zone.

The present Mutur Divisional Secretary’s Division is 179.4 square kilometres in territory and the HSZ declared seeks to cover 50% of the said division.

They further stated that according to a statement made by Defence Spokesman Kehiliya Rambukwella, civilians from the HSZ will not be allowed to return to their lands or occupy the same.

Petitioners state that they are wary of the establishment of the HSZ particularly in view of recent directives by high ranking government officials of the Defence establishment to eliminate the presence of Tamils from the North and East from certain parts of Colombo.

They maintained that the directive is based on the unfair and wrongful assumption that the Tamils from the North and East are subversives or terrorists and charged that such policies are targeted at changing the ethnic demographics in the area.

They alleged that such widespread and systematic attack on a section of the population based on ethnic grounds amounts to a Crime Against Humanity as defined by international norms and that such policies by the government are disproportionately affecting Tamil citizens.

They claim that the said Regulations are arbitrary, harsh, unduly oppressive, overly broad and unreasonable and constitutes an infringement and imminent infringement of fundamental rights to right to equality and equal protection by the law and freedom to engage in any lawful occupation, profession, trade, business or enterprises as well as the freedom of movement and of choosing residence within Sri Lanka.

Another similar petition too was filed by four petitioners who have been residing and owning properties therein for generations.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sea Tiger radar point destroyed

Increasing trend of LTTE activities in temples and churches, says army

Army confident of driving out Tigers

A trap awaits the troops, says LTTE

COLOMBO: The military reported on Tuesday that an LTTE cadre committed suicide by swallowing a cyanide capsule when troops entered a temple in Kaluwankerni, Batticaloa, in a search operation even as the air force bombed “identified” Tiger targets in Thoppigala jungles in the east.

Thoppigala, supposedly the last pocket of influence of Tigers, is the theatre of a battle between the army and the LTTE for several weeks now. The military has claimed that it would be a matter of days before it drove out the 300 odd Tigers sheltered in the bushy jungles. On the reported suicide, the military said the army conducted a search operation following a tip-of that the LTTE cadre who fled Thoppigala took cover in the temple.

“Lately the security forces have observed an increasing trend of LTTE activities inside Hindu temples and Christian churches.

“On many occasions they have sought the sanctuary of places of worship to conceal explosives, weapons and other military equipment making use of the high degree of respect the armed forces have towards these places.

“Concerned civilians and religious leaders play a major role in informing the security forces of such impious activities by the LTTE. In most instances, recovery of weapons and explosives was possible due to timely information by civilians and religious leaders,” said the military. Separately, fighter jets pounded “identified LTTE targets” and a Sea Tiger radar point was destroyed in the precision strikes.

LTTE’s appeal

The Defence Ministry alleged that the LTTE is using polythene sacks with UNHCR emblem containing dry rations to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) to cover up their bunkers.

“Paying scant regard to the civilians, Tiger terrorists had also blown up a bridge that connected Karadiyanaru with Thoppigala road and steps are being taken by Engineer troops to restore the bridge”.

Coinciding with the Co-Chairs meeting under way in Oslo, S.P Thamilchelvan, head of the LTTE’s political division, told TamilNet that to bring peace and pave the way for talks, the international community should come forward to “support the struggle for rights of the Tamil people and force the Sri Lankan Government to implement the ceasefire agreement in full”.

Characterising the “efforts” to bring a united position among the southern parties as the “same old drama,” that has gone on throughout the Tamil people’s struggle for their rights, he said only the CFA can save the island from the disaster.

Welcoming the meeting, he said Tamil people had become suspicious as to why there was no “firm united stance” even among the members of the Co-Chairs.

Some members are indirectly encouraging Colombo by giving military and economic aid while some others are attempting to implement practical steps to put pressure on the Government, he alleged.

Mr. Thamilchelvan claimed that the LTTE chose military strategies to suit the “place, environment and time,” and that the army would soon find out the “trap they have set for themselves”.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Questions Remain on Massacre in Sri Lanka

MUTUR, Sri Lanka — The victims had been ordered to lie face down, arms outstretched, all in a row in the front yard of a white bungalow. Two lay next to a parked van, interrupted perhaps in a bid to escape.

Most of the dead wore T-shirts bearing the name of the aid group that employed them: the Paris-based Action Contre La Faim, or Action Against Hunger.

The bungalow was their local office, where they had huddled for at least three days last August, waiting to be rescued as soldiers and rebels battled for control of this town.

By the time help arrived, their bodies were decomposing. Photographs show crows standing witness on a plastic patio chair.

The massacre of the 17 was among the worst attacks aimed at aid workers in any conflict anywhere in recent years, approaching the toll in the bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad in August 2003.

But nearly a year after the massacre, the most basic questions about the killings remain unresolved.

Sri Lanka’s government, enmeshed again in a bitter civil war and anxious to keep international human rights monitors out of the country, is facing rising condemnation from groups here and abroad who say the investigation has been wanting because of the possibility that its security forces were involved.

They point to serious gaps, including inconsistencies in ballistics evidence that could implicate Sri Lankan soldiers.

The International Commission of Jurists, a Geneva-based human rights group composed of lawyers, released a report in April identifying “a disturbing lack of impartiality, transparency and effectiveness of the investigation.”

Predictably, the rivals in the fighting, the Sinhalese-dominated state and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, have traded blame for the massacre, one in a pattern of extrajudicial killings that have become a regular feature of the war. Each side says the aid workers were killed when the other party held Mutur; exactly when they were killed, and who was in charge then, is the major mystery.

[In the latest assault on aid workers, the bodies of two Sri Lankan Red Cross Society staff members were found in early June in a suburb of the capital, Colombo. They were picked up for questioning the day before by men who identified themselves as police officers.]

The massacre here occurred at a turning point in the war, as government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels clashed for control of the east. By Aug. 1, the battle had reached Mutur, a small town that was a tricky place.

Located across the bay from Trincomalee, it had long been under government control, but was encircled by rebel-held villages.

Its population was mixed, with Tamils and Muslims living with each other alongside hundreds of largely Sinhalese soldiers.

Trickier still for the aid group was the fact that all its workers were Sri Lankan nationals from Trincomalee, an hour away by ferry, and strangers to the town. And all were Tamil, except one man, a Muslim.

Foreigners can often shield national staff from harassment and suspicion from the warring parties. But that week, with Mutur already girding for trouble, local staff members were sent out alone. Officials from Action Against Hunger said they could not clarify why.

As the Sinhalese military fought to flush out rebel bases nearby, the Tamil Tigers stormed the town, by their account, around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday.

That evening, from besieged Mutur, one of the aid workers, Sivapragasam Romila, 25, called a neighbor in Trincomalee; her own family did not have a phone. Her 18-year-old sister, Noilen, ran next door to answer the call. It was only then that she learned that her sister was even in Mutur.

Romila had gone off to work that morning at the aid group’s office in Trincomalee and later, unknown to her family, had taken the ferry to Mutur, which she visited frequently in her work as a hygiene promoter for the group.

Noilen said she could hear the shelling on the phone, louder than anything she had heard before. “Don’t tell mother, but I’m afraid,” she said Romila had told her.

Noilen waited anxiously for two days for more news. Then Romila called again. She told Noilen that the aid group was trying to get them out. She said they were running out of food.

Their instructions to the Mutur group were unequivocal: remain in the house and wear the agency T-shirts, call in to the Trincomalee radio room every hour. Help would be on the way.

Officials from Action Against Hunger said efforts to retrieve the workers were stymied by soldiers, who blocked the one long road that loops through marsh and jungle from Trincomalee to Mutur. The fighting had prevented the ferry from running.

In interviews, the officials insisted that the decision to instruct their employees to stay put was the right one. They pointed out that a church, where civilians had sought shelter that week, had been shelled, killing more than a dozen people.

“It’s easy to say afterwards they should have left,” Fran├žois Danel, the group’s executive in Paris, said by telephone. “Our decision was for them to stay. It’s in our guidelines.”

By the morning of Friday, Aug. 4, with food and water running out, many of the town’s residents had fled.

At 6:15 a.m. Friday, the aid office in Trincomalee received a final radio call. What was said, including whether the group wanted to leave Mutur with the other civilians, remains unclear. The group said the conversation was not recorded on the radio log, though it would not share its records.

An autopsy did not determine the exact time of death. The Sri Lankan court hearing the case concluded that all 17 were killed early the same morning.

When the security forces reclaimed Mutur is disputed. The rebels contend they cleared out shortly after midnight on Thursday after urging the aid workers to be careful, a contention that is impossible to verify. The military has made contradictory statements about when it took control.

Firzan Hashim, the deputy executive director of the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies, an umbrella group based in Colombo, reached Mutur on Sunday afternoon. By then, no one was on the narrow road.

The bungalow used by the aid group had been ransacked. A rotten stench filled the air. The aid workers had been shot at such close range, he said, that the bullets had burned muscle as they entered.

The first serious autopsy, last October, showed that nearly all had been shot in the head, two in the neck.

The evidence presented in March to the criminal court indicated that the bullets used were from automatic rifles, 7.62 millimeter, ammunition used by each side in the war.

But that evidence was incomplete. Malcolm J. Dodd, an Australian forensic pathologist invited by the government to observe the autopsy, recorded seeing something else. From Sivapragasam Romila’s skull a “minimally deformed” 5.56 millimeter projectile was retrieved, he wrote in a 64-page report. A 7.62 millimeter bullet was enmeshed in her hair.

The 5.56 millimeter bullet is used in American-made M-16 rifles, carried by some members of Sri Lankan security forces, though such a weapon could just as easily have been stolen by the rebels or someone else. It is a mystery why that evidence was only belatedly revealed to the court.

The government, apparently to deflect calls for an international human rights mission, has appointed a panel to conduct an independent investigation of the massacre and several other prominent human rights crimes.

The inquiry is separate from the criminal case, and it has not satisfied many here or abroad. The Center for Policy Alternatives, a Colombo-based advocacy group, said the official commission was no substitute for an international mission.

[In a statement on June 11, the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons, a government-appointed panel called in to observe the work of the presidential commission, said the measures taken by the commission “do not satisfy international norms and standards.”]

The uncertainties surrounding the investigations have only compounded the mourning of the victims’ families.

The last time Ganesh Sivaneshwari heard from her daughter, Kavitha, 27, was Thursday night, Aug. 3. Kavitha, also a hygiene promoter, had taken the Tuesday morning ferry to the aid office in Mutur.

Her father, Selaiah Ganesh, 54, a driver for Action Against Hunger, was already there.

It gave Mrs. Ganesh strength that week, knowing that her husband and daughter were together. She trusted her husband’s judgment. He was able and well connected, she said, and he would know how to keep everyone safe or get them out.

What is left of father and daughter are pictures on the family altar. On one afternoon, Mrs. Ganesh sat on the unswept floor and wept.

Her husband’s death has deepened her fear. Only reluctantly does she allow her son Gajan to work, so the family can eat. She has sent another son out of the country.

Without Selaiah Ganesh, they no longer know how to keep safe in the madness of this war.

“If my father were here, I wouldn’t be afraid,” Gajan, 24, said. “I am afraid now.”


Lanka concerned over Chinese-built LTTE arms

A deeply concerned Sri Lankan government is likely to draw China’s attention to a clandestine arms pipeline to the LTTE amidst growing evidence that the group has acquired a sizeable quantity of Chinese manufactured equipment.

The government is expected to seek China’s help to halt vital military supplies to the LTTE. Last week’s capture of an LTTE attack craft about six nautical miles east of the LTTE stronghold at Thalaiady highlighted the Chinese arms link.

The 16-metre vessel believed to be built at an Indonesian boatyard carried an assortment of Chinese manufactured arms including a 14.5 twin barrel anti-aircraft weapon capable of hitting targets at a range of about 2000 metres. This is the first of its kind recovered from the LTTE.

An authoritative government source said that the recovery was the largest single detection of Chinese made arms since Sri Lanka briefed Beijing about LTTE efforts to acquire arms, ammunition and equipment from China early this year.

The SLN seized the vessel after a confrontation Tuesday night off the Thalaiady coast. A Sea Tiger raid on Point Pedro waters triggered a six-hour battle which was repulsed by the SLN with the support of the army.

The army had brought devastating artillery and MBRLs (multi barrel rocket launchers) into play on a Sea Tiger flotilla, initially detected south of Point Pedro. This long range fire had an overwhelming impact on the flotilla before the SLN Fast Attack Craft (FAC) squadrons had swung into action.

Dismissing assertion that the SLN had captured an enemy craft disabled by the artillery fire, the SLN emphasized that there was undeniable evidence that it was first hit by P 412, a Fast Attack Craft (FAC) deployed along with three similar craft.

A 107 mm rocket fired from P 412 had damaged the enemy craft which had also been hit by 30 mm fire. It had capsized and two SLN personnel subsequently jumped into the water to secure a towline enabling the navy to tow the captured vessel to Kankesanthurai on Wednesday morning.

The SLN deployed four squadrons of FACs which ultimately overwhelmed the enemy, naval sources said. The SLN also found evidence that two Chinese built 12.7 mm guns had been mounted on the captured vessel on a previous occasion.

"We found two mounts and ammunition," an official said.

The captured LTTE attack craft (Indumathie) carried three 7.62 mm multi purpose machine guns and one sub machine guns - all of Chinese origin and the corresponding ammunition. The video footage of the battle showed that five enemy craft of similar type (categorized by the Sea Tigers as Wave Rider) were destroyed by FACs during the night battle.

The cutting edge of the SLN is its FAC squadrons primarily operating out of Trincomalee and Kankesanthurai.

The SLN filmed on video 16 craft similar to the one captured and towed to Kankesanthurai. The sources pointed out that all these craft may well have been armed with Chinese weapons.

These craft, just five metres shorter than the SLN’s 21 metre Israeli-built Dvoras, were equipped with Japanese JRC radar and four Japanese-built 250 horsepower outboard motors (OBMs), a US Gamin GPS (Global Positioning System) of Korean make and four communication sets for boat to boat and boat to land communication.

The communication sets are of both Chinese and Japanese makes. Although such communication equipment could have been easily accessed, the Tigers acquiring Japanese radar and powerful OBMs which had been built by Yamaha was of serious concern, highly placed government sources said.

The seizure of the vessel revealed the existence of a vast international LTTE procurement network with unlimited funds, security sources said.

"It was truly an international product," an official said while expressing concern over the absence of what he termed a mechanism to deny terrorist groups access to arms, ammunition and equipment. He estimated that each boat would have cost a sizeable amount.

Early this year the SLN captured an LTTE craft mounted with a single barrel 14.5 mm weapon. During a recent visit to Beijing by UNP and Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe Chinese officials said that they thoroughly investigated Sri Lanka’s claim that the LTTE had received Chinese built military hardware.

Wickremesinghe’s was confident that China would never act in a manner detrimental to Sri Lanka’s interests. Government sources said that they do not suspect China of arming the LTTE but the fact that Chinese armaments were seized from the LTTE could not be taken lightly.

"Maybe there’s a third party involvement," an official said.

Since September last year the SLN intercepted and destroyed four LTTE vessels carrying armaments on the deep seas, two of them on a single day.


Sri Lankan troops find polythene sacks with UNHCR emblem covering Tiger bunkers in Thoppigala

Advancing Sri Lankan troops in Thoppigala found polythene sacks with UNHCR emblem in which dry rations to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) contained have been used by the LTTE to cover up their bunkers.

A senior military official said that infantry men supported by Army Engineers during the weekend came across a number of LTTE’s destroyed bunkers, public buildings, vehicles and many other items.

Tigers had also blown up a bridge that connected Karadiyanaru with Thoppigala road and steps are being taken by the Army Engineers to restore the bridge.

Troops also collected a large stock of arms, ammunition and various explosives abandoned by withdrawing Tigers.


LTTE's Tora-Bora base overrun : Thoppigala

SLA infantry and armored corps engaged in the Thoppigala offensive overran LTTE's 'Tora Bora' training base today. LTTE cadres had fled the area before army troops reached base premises thus avoiding any direct confrontations. Tora-Bora was the largest LTTE training base in Eastern province. Thoppigala operation continues with troops marching towards LTTE's Beiruit camp and several other camps in Thravikulam area.

Advance of the troops has slowed down to a crawl due to the hazardous environment set by fleeing tigers. Army engineering corps are tasked with the removal of several thousand landmines and deathtraps ('Maru Wal' in Singhalese) that are placed everywhere in the rough jungle terrain. Although the military claims that it has captured 98% of Thoppigala region, DefenceNet learns that this claim is false. More fierce and more decisive battles in Thoppigala offensive are yet to be fought. However, the army definitely holds the advantage of these battles with its elite units leading the charge and most of LTTE's supply routes cut off. [Video footage of the offensive can be found here. (Source: ]

Meanwhile SLAF fighter jets flew more than 4 sorties during the day, after a long silence. Sea tigers base complex in Silawathurei, LTTE bases in Thoppigala and identified targets west of Omanthai and Vavuniya were bombed using Jet bombers in the 10th fighter squadron. Damages caused by airstrikes are unknown at the moment.


2 Commando Regiment approaches Beiruit camp : Thoppigala

Sri Lanka army's commando units engaged in the Thoppigala offensive braved their way through rocky terrain, land mines, death traps and rough weather to reach the boundaries of LTTE's Beiruit camp. Beiruit complex is the last LTTE stronghold in the eastern province. 2nd Commando Regiment commanded by Major Uditha Bandara, is now laying the siege to Beiruit complex. 6th, 7th and 8th Gemunu regiments have also entered the battlefield to provide fire support in what is expected to be a fierce final battle.

Offensive to capture Thoppigala started when Army's Special Forces units penetrated LTTE defense lines on February 24th. Although the offensive met almost no LTTE resistance in early days, it has now come under heavy LTTE counterattacks. LTTE offered fierce resistance when troops attempted to capture the final LTTE defense line (near Narakamulla east) on the 19th. The FDL was fortified with 6 bunkers and 3 minor camps. Even after a heavy barrage of artillery and tank fire at the FDL, LTTE had not vacated their positions. The LTTE was taken by surprise by army's next move. Nearly 50 soldiers of the Commando regiment stormed into LTTE bunkers and opened fire on defending terrorists. In a few seconds, the entire situation of the battle changed. LTTE cadres who initially had the upper hand of the battle were now trapped inside their own bunker line. This devastating commando raid left 30 tigers dead. 3 tiger cadres had committed suicide during the battle. In contrast to heavy LTTE casualties, only 4 commando units received injuries.

Initially, a tank offensive was planned to capture remaining tiger territory. This was called off later to avoid damages as LTTE used their MBRLs to fire at incoming troops. LTTE have used 2 6-barreled MBRLs, 4 120mm Mortars and numerous 81mm mortars as heavy weapons during the offensive.


LTTE advance halted: Vavuniya

nitial wave of a fresh LTTE advance on army's forward defense lines west of Omanthai was neutralized by SLA Special Forces units yesterday. Initially, 2 LTTE cadres who were trying to infiltrate into the army controlled area (probably for artillery spotting) were shot dead by the security forces who were manning the FDLs. LTTE's main advancing body disintegrated when small groups of Special Forces units carried out a pre emptive strike to halt the advance. 13 LTTE cadres are known to have perished in battle.

Small groups of Special Forces units ventured into the 'no man's land' between army and LTTE FDLs west of Omanthai to repel the LTTE advance before it could reach the army's frontline positions.

Special Forces are now been deployed in the Vavuniya - Omanthai region where heavy fighting has taken place in the past month. SLA lost approximately 6 square kilometers of territory to LTTE when they launched a three pronged offensive few weeks earlier to recapture areas lost to army offensives.


LTTE suffers casualties in sea battle

LTTE's sea going arm suffered heavy casualties when one of it's clandestine boat movements was intercepted by the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN), yesterday. SLN gunboats deployed in the northern waters detected a group of approximately 20 sea tiger boats moving towards Point Pedro from Kadaikadu.

Upon detection, Fast Attack Craft (FAC) of the Navy engaged the sea tiger boat movement. The fierce firefight which then erupted lasted for hours. In the initial battle, Navy's gunboats destroyed 3 LTTE craft completely. As soon as these boats were hit, rest of the sea tiger boats began withdrawing towards tiger controlled territory in Kadaikadu. SLAF's Mi-24 helicopter gunships attacked the fleeing tigers and SLA's artillery bases bombarded the seas off Munai (where the rebel craft were lingering for a while) using Multi Barrel Rockets and 152mm/130mm artillery guns.

A total of 5 LTTE craft were sunk and a further 9 are confirmed to be seriously damaged. One of the disabled LTTE boats in better condition is now being towed to the Point Pedro harbor by SLN. Nearly 40 LTTE cadres are believed to be killed in this 4 hour long sea battle.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Sri Lanka's elite Special Forces get ready to deliver a decapitaing stike to LTTE terrorism in Thoppigala

THOPPIGALA, SRI LANKA: Sri Lanka's elite Special Forces commandos gather 21 June 2007 in the eastern jungles of Thoppigala during an operation against Tamil Tiger guerrillas. Sri Lanka's military says it is about to wrest total control over the vast jungle area after two months of heavy fighting.

A tragedy of the survivors

The first anniversary of the gruesome terrorist claymore bomb attack on a packed passenger bus at Kongollewa, Kebetigollewa, that claimed more than 60 lives and injured an almost equal number, fell on June 16. The Sunday Times visited the region earlier this week to see the plight of survivors and the security measures in place to prevent the recurrence of such attacks.

The carnage of that day is especially felt by those who lived at Yakawewa, for this farming village lost the most number of people, 54, and the result is that out of 128 families in the village, 45 families, most of whom lost one or more family members are yet in a camp for the displaced in Kebetigollewa.

Some might say many of them are staying on because of the free assistance, but the truth is that all assistance has been stopped and it is a miracle that they are still surviving on a barren piece of land carved out of a small hill called Boralu Kanda.

Kebetigollewa Divisional Secretary H. J. M. Herath confirmed that all state assistance to them had already been stopped as funds were no longer forthcoming from the government. In the past, the allegation against NGOs was that they totally ignored Sinhala villages that faced LTTE violence, but today, NGOs are virtually barred from these areas for fear their Tamil employees could be spying for the LTTE.

So, all that the people have now are the temporary tin roofed shelters provided by the ICRC, the only NGO permitted to operate freely in the entire region, up to the controversial Weli Oya. And it is the ICRC that has provided basic farm implements, seeds and some hand tractors for hundreds of others that fled Yakawewa and surrounding villages like Thalgahawewa, Nikawewa and Kanugahawewa after the attack to resettle and restart their lives. Although the displaced living at Boralu Kanda are refusing to budge, it is apparent that even the ICRC is not being encouraged to give them any assistance here.

Mr. Herath who had voluntarily come here in the aftermath of the attack to assist the then Divisional Secretary as a relief officer and has stayed on to serve the region says that there is a limit to what he can do for the affected people. Under existing government regulations no more than Rs.25,000 can be paid to each family if they are willing to resettle in their original homes and as this sum is hardly adequate considering the cost of things today, the DS is trying to obtain additional assistance from NGOs willing to help.

Out of about ten displaced people we spoke with at the Boralu Kanda camp, only two, a father and his son said they remained there for reasons other than security. Ayurvedic physician P. Dissanayake and his son said they were there for economic reasons. According to Dr. Dissanayake most of his patients are from areas outside Yakawewa and now very few people come to Yakawewa due to security fears and poor transport facilities. From the centrally located Kebetigollewa he was able to conduct dispensaries in several places.

All others cited security fears as the reason for them not returning to their homes. B. Kamalawathi who lost her husband in the bus blast said that the only reason why she survived was that she fell between two seats at the time of the explosion. Though she had recovered from her wounds she is still suffering from severe back pain requiring constant medical attention. Out of her three children only the son is employed as a home guard, while the two young daughters are studying at the Kebetigollewa Central College.

The main reason she attributed to her refusal to return to Yakawewa was that her two daughters are scared to travel by bus since that incident. She and her children are surviving on the son’s salary and the compensation of Rs.150,000 received for the loss of her husband.

M. Chandrawathy who had lost her husband Herath Banda, who too was a home guard, said she with her two small children aged eight and five could not possibly go back to live in their home situated at the edge of the village. Her immediate neighbours too had either died in the blast or had fled the area.

According to Chandrawathy even those who have returned to the village gather at a central location for the night for fear of attacks.

M. Mallika, a relative of Chandrawathy, who had lost her husband in 1997 in a previous LTTE attack, lost her only son in the bus blast. Her woes are many. Those who guarded their village in their absence had stripped and looted much of her household, including doors and electrical wiring and fittings and elephants had devoured much of her fully grown plantation, including 36 coconut trees and 12 jak fruit trees, a plight faced by most others who ran away from their homesteads. “I received only Rs.50,000 as compensation for my lost son, but I need more than Rs.100,000 to restore my six-roomed house to a livable state”, she complains.

Out of her three daughters, the government has given employment to the eldest as a clerk at the Road Development Authority, the other two aged eight and ten are yet schooling. “How can I go back and live with three girls in a house without doors and windows?” asks Mallika.

M. Yasawathy’s only daughter Nirosha Chathurangani had died in the attack while she was on her way to attend a class. Yasawathy said she could not possibly go back with the death of not only her daughter, but several of her close relatives.

When we visited Yakawewa village on Tuesday some families were yet holding alms-giving for their dead relatives on this first anniversary over several days as there aren’t enough monks to have them all in one day.

Even those who have returned most carry physical and mental scars from the incident and their tales of woe are endless. In a house where an alms giving was being held we met a cross section of survivors, almost all of whom are relatives.

M. Ratnayake (50), who had lost the proper use of both his hands as a result of the injuries he suffered, recalled that there were possibly about 200 people packed into that bus from the village that day as many of them were going to attend a funeral at Maha Kuchchikudiya of a nephew, a home guard killed by the LTTE.

Ratnayake said he lost a total of 20 family members in the blast. The only ones to survive from his immediate family are his second son and a daughter, both of whom too are physically and mentally scarred. He has a hard time keeping control over them as they are for ever fighting. Ratnayake unable to do any proper work with his mangled hands obviously has befriended Bacchus with the compensation money he had received for lost relatives.

Another survivor, M. Chandrasena whose son Ratnasiri was killed in the blast is still concerned about the security. He said the bunker line that had been built from Weli Oya to nearby Dutuwewa after the attack was far too close for comfort.

U.B. Piyadasa of Dutuwewa said though the bunker line stretching some 26 kilometres was built up to Dutuwewa police post and manned day and night by home guards and army, there was a wide gap from there onwards for about 12 kilometres in thick jungle through which the Tigers continued to infiltrate and carry out attacks, specially along the old Kebetigollewa-Vavuniya Road, where the bunker line had been halted at the sixth mile post. This once busy roadway has been closed since the devastating bomb attack, but that has not prevented the Tigers from carrying out several hit and run attacks, despite the presence of several police posts along the route.

Piyadasa in fact managed to take us on this road up to the sixth mile post, past several police posts as if we were proceeding to several graphite mines in operation in the nearby jungles. When we reached the sixth mile post the policemen there were shocked to see us and requested us to get back immediately. But it was obvious to anyone how easy it is for the Tigers to strike at will as the left side of the road was entirely covered in thick jungle without a bunker line to prevent infiltration from that side.
Ven. Viharahalmillawe Dhammarakkitha Thera the chief monk in the area said they had already made representations to the government to get the bunker line extended to achieve this task, but he saw the virgin thick jungle as a spoiler.

Security sources in the region too said that as it was thick jungle they would require a much larger contingent of additional personnel to achieve the task. It was not only the bunker line that has to be secured, but even approach and supply paths.

Another grave complaint of many of those returnees is the inadequate transport to affected villages as there was only one bus to serve them all. M. Sumanawathy of Dutuwewa said often her children do not attend school when the bus does not turn up and when the bus is not there in the afternoon the children had to trek back on foot from Kebetigollewa.

W. Ariyadasa said families who had motorcycles manage to send their children to school when the bus does not arrive, but others simply stay at home.

But the military that is responsible for the security of the area are not unaware of these problems. Military sources said they somehow try to ensure that the single bus does at least five turns for a day. And they had distributed about 150 bicycles among schoolchildren of the affected villages provided by philanthropists.

The military has even obtained 50 scholarships for some of the affected children. The government employing several thousand home guards at Rs.480 per day too has given a tremendous boost to these people, who will be otherwise left to fend for themselves.

Our visit to the Kebetigollewa CTB depot was a real eye opener as to the type of neglect the area had been subjected to despite it being most vulnerable. We counted about 50 unserviceable buses left exposed to the elements. When we asked the Depot Superintendent E. Malalaratne, why nothing was being done to auction them, he maintained he was not empowered to do so.

According to the DS, who had only assumed duties early this year he needed 54 buses to run services according to time table, but he had only 25 in road worthy condition.

He had received only one bus since assuming duties to replace the one destroyed by the terrorist attack. The salaries of employees for the month of May are in arrears to the tune of Rs1.5 million and we saw many employees arguing over their balance salaries and the DS does not know how he would meet this month’s salaries either.

With 254 employees for 25 buses one can imagine the plight of the depot. This region being far flung and the roads being badly maintained, he says one cannot expect to turn a profit by simply adding buses either as some of the areas they are serving have only about 30 families and a single violent incident is enough to drop the passenger load to zero.

Mr. Malalaratne says the only money earner for them are the Kebetigollewa- Anuradhapura and Kebetigollewa- Pulmudai routes, but here, they have to compete with private operators, who shun all other interior routes where the wear and tear is very high on vehicles and even the consumption of diesel is excessive due to the bad state of those roads.


TNA fires questions over HSZ in Mutur

* Claims govt. plans to set up coal power plant
* Villagers to be relocated to uncultivable land

The Government’s decision to declare a High Security Zone (HSZ) around the Mutur east area of the Trincomalee district, is to be taken up by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) in Courts, amidst a campaign to brief diplomatic missions about the issue.

The TNA met with diplomats from the US, France, Canada, Sweden and India on Thursday and briefed them about the displacement that would take place. The TNA also claims that part of the area is to be used to set up the proposed controversial coal power project. About 15,000 civilians from Tamil populated villages would have to be relocated from 12 Grama Sevaka divisions including Sampur East, Sampur West, Uppural, Paddalipuram, Navaratnapuram, Pallkudiyeruppu, Kaddaiparichchan North and Kaddaiparichchan South.

The High Security Zone was declared in a special gazette notification issued on May 30 with Major General Parakrama Pannipitiya being appointed as the Competent Authority.

According to the gazette any person violating the regulations could be liable to a term of Rigorous Imprisonment for not less than three months and not exceeding five years and a fine of not less than Rs. 500,000. Any vessel found in the area could be confiscated.

Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake responding to the adjournment question raised by TNA Parliamentary group leader Mr. R.Sampanthan on Tuesday said the High security zone has been declared due to security reasons and that it cannot reversed.

Mr. .Sampanthan said that he had not been consulted over the declaration of the HSZ though he was an MP representing the district.

At least 19 schools, 27 temples and 88 irrigation tanks fall within this decalred HSZ. The area also has about 2,000 hectares of grazing land for livestock owned by the people in the area. Farming, fishing and livestock breeding are the main sources of income for the villagers.

Mr. Sampanthan told Parliament though the gazette notification mentioned about a schedule it was not very clear. He also called on the government to refrain from implementing the regulations and rescind them.

The villagers from areas that would come under the HSZ are to be relocated in Ralkuli and Kanguveli which are reported to be areas that cannot be used for cultivation and goes regularly under water during the rainy season.

Meanwhile TNA MP K. Thurairathnasingham told The Sunday Times that so far 500 acres of land have been acquired and some houses have been brought down and roads widened for the proposed coal power project. He said according to the government’s plan villagers who once owned several acres of land will now be restricted to owning 10 perches of land.

“We want to know why at least the MPs in the area were not informed about such a drastic decision?” he asked. The move to go ahead with the coal power project in Trincomalee comes as the proposed plant at Norochchoalai is at a standstill with the Chinese delaying its commencement.


Heavy casualties as war intensifies

* President meets Solheim in Geneva, wants commitment from Prabha
* Recruitment of 50,000 more troops to continue war; Service Chiefs to be elevated
* Troops clear more parts of the East, but heavy battles in the north

For many reasons than one, the ongoing undeclared Eelam War IV is assuming increasingly greater significance. In Geneva, last week, President Mahinda Rajapaksa told Norway's peace facilitators that the Government's military campaign against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) would continue. It could only be halted if their leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, pledged to cease violence and declared he was willing to talk peace.

His remarks came during a meeting with Erik Solheim, Minister for International Development and the most important player in the Sri Lankan peace process. He met Mr. Rajapaksa together with Special Envoy Jon Hanssen Bauer and three Norwegian officials at a suite in the Intercontinental Hotel in Geneva. Weeks earlier, Norway had sought this meeting.It was Mr. Solheim who raised the question - what does the Government of Sri Lanka now want Norway to do?

President Rajapaksa replied, "I do not want to pursue a military solution. I want to talk with the LTTE without any pre-conditions. Velupillai Prabhakaran must convey his moves and not others." He made clear if there was an assurance from the LTTE leader that guerrilla attacks would cease, the Government would follow suit. He urged Norway to continue its efforts to bring the guerrillas to the negotiation table. He also took the opportunity to express his displeasure over how the Sri Lankan delegation had been treated when they were last in Oslo. He alleged that whilst they were largely confined to their rooms, members of the LTTE delegation have had what he called a field day.

President Rajapaksa did not favour an immediate visit to Sri Lanka by Special Envoy Jon Hanssen Bauer. For many weeks, Norway had wanted to ascertain both from the Government and the LTTE their respective stances over the peace process. After the Geneva meeting, sounding out the LTTE, it was felt, would have helped discern their current position. The idea was to ascertain whether there was "even a remote window of opportunity," said a diplomatic source.

President Rajapaksa was of the view that Norway should make contact with the LTTE leadership from Oslo since a visit at this juncture would not be opportune. Even if he did not say so, the Government would have found it difficult to facilitate such a visit in the coming weeks. There was heightened military activity in southern parts of the Wanni, particularly west of the A-9 highway. It would have necessitated the suspension of such activity, a move that would have drawn protests from military commanders. On the other hand, if the President was awaiting word from Mr. Prabhakaran, it seemed unlikely. He was too busy with war preparations too.

The Rajapaksa-Solheim dialogue came ahead of the meeting of the Donor Co-chairs of the peace process in the Norwegian capital of Oslo tomorrow (Monday) and Tuesday. This meeting by officials of the United States, Japan, member countries of the European Union and Norway is to take stock of developments in Sri Lanka. Though Indian officials from New Delhi were invited, their envoy in Oslo is now expected to attend the meeting as an observer. US Assistant Secretary Richard Boucher, Japan's Special Envoy Yasushi Akashi, Andreas Michaelis, Director-General representing the EU Presidency, and James Morran of the European Commission will take part. An official statement by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry said "Norway does not intend to make any public statements after the Co-Chairs meeting."

In his first dialogue with Norway's peace facilitators after a break of over a year, President Rajapaksa, has made it unequivocally clear the war on the LTTE will continue. This is not withstanding his assertion that he was not committed to a military solution. In reality, at least for the moment, the clarification of his Government's position leaves Norway with only "remote control diplomacy." The peace facilitator has heard the Government of Sri Lanka in Geneva and not in Colombo. And the President has told them they could hear the LTTE by making contacts from Norway. A visit to Sri Lanka has thus been stalled.

In reality, Norway's peace facilitator role has been, at least for now, temporarily confined to outside the shores of Sri Lanka. Perhaps the only exception is its diplomatic mission in Colombo. Added to that, the second arm of the peace facilitator mechanism, the role of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) has also become curtailed. The SLMM has declared it would no longer issue rulings. Though not expressly required by the Ceasefire Agreement of February 2002, they have been giving such rulings. This was when incidents were too few and the ceasefire was more effective.

"This is mainly because of the extended number of incidents. We cannot pretend to know every one of them," Thorfinnur Omarsson, media spokesperson for the SLMM told The Sunday Times. "This temporary move, however, did not mean the SLMM will not monitor the ceasefire. We will cover the incidents, have them in our database and issue our own reports," he added. The spokesperson insisted that the decision not to issue rulings was made by the SLMM and not at the instance of anyone in the Government.

By SLMM's own declaration, incidents have risen so much that they find it difficult to keep track of them. An undeclared war has become more potent than the three previous declared phases - Eelam War I, II and III. In the recent weeks, billions of rupees worth of orders have been placed with a number of countries for military hardware, mostly those with offensive capability. The strength of three armed forces is to be raised by 50,000. Troops are being trained how to cope with advanced weapons including a variety of missiles. War preparations are thus widening. The Government has officially declared that even the Ceasefire Agreement was under review though no follow-up action has come forth.

It was only last week that a delegation led by Jayantha Wickremasinghe, Chief Executive Officer of the state owned Lanka Logistics & Technologies Limited, returned from Russia after a procurement mission. Other members were Air Vice Marshal Prashantha de Silva, Director, Aeronautical Engineering in the Sri Lanka Air Force and Flt. Lt. N. Ekanayake. The visit has been arranged by Sri Lanka's Ambassador in Russia, Udayanga Weeratunga. In Moscow, they visited the MiG-29 factory, Ulan Ude, the manufacturers of Mi-17 helicopters and met with representatives of Rosboronoexport - the state trading arm. They also visited Ukrinmash (in Ukraine), the company that sold the controversial MiG-27 bombers. There have been allegations of corrupt practices over this deal. The tour ended with a visit to Lugansk (410 plant) where an Antonov 32 transport plane overhaul facility is located. Out of the Air Force fleet, only one AN 32 is now said to be operational.

The Government wanted to go ahead with the procurement of five MiG-29 aircraft including a UB trainer. This was purportedly on the grounds that they were needed to phase out the MiG-27s that were taken delivery of only in December, last year. In the light of disclosures in The Sunday Times (Situation Report) and after the Opposition raised issue in Parliament, there is now re-thinking on this massive deal. The Government is to drop the procurement of MiG-29s and is now examining a cheaper equivalent. But other procurements and services from Russia are still in the pipeline.

Besides Russia, other countries with which deals have been made or are in the making include Bulgaria, China, Israel and Pakistan. A deal for the Navy with Bulgaria has been delayed due to lengthy procedures laid down by the European Union. Bulgaria became a member of the EU on January 1, this year. Sri Lanka is required to meet the criteria set by the EU to facilitate an export licence before Bulgaria is able to supply the items required.

The armed forces have embarked on a programme to enhance their strength by 50,000. The Army will recruit 25,000 more whilst the Navy will recruit 15,000 and the Air Force 10,000. Each service arm has formed its own Co-ordinating Committee to monitor the recruitment process and to ensure the targets set are achieved. They will meet periodically to review the progress.

The Sri Lanka Army now has an approved cadre of over 100,000. That strength, at least on paper, exceeds the strength of the British Army. However, Since January 1, 2005 until April 20, 2007, Army records reveal that a total of 93 officers and 10,060 other ranks have deserted their posts. Some availed themselves of periodic general amnesties. The last general amnesty from January 20 to February 12 this year saw a total of 3979 (2758 regulars and 1221 volunteers) return to service. Added to these are the vacancies caused by troops killed or left out of battle due to injuries.

Enhancing the strength of the Army has drawn mixed reactions from serving senior officers. Some are of the view that existing battalions, with some exceptions, are under strength. Whilst the ideal strength was 855 troops per battalion, there were some with a strength of 400 to 500 troops. Hence, they were of the view that depleted battalions should be merged and made full strength to ensure the maximum utilisation of resources. But others held a different view.

Though depleted, allowing the battalions to remain that way, they argue, enabled them (though small in number) to obtain their entitlements. More importantly, it also means an increase in the number of officer cadres thus throwing open the doors for rapid promotions. When the recruitments are complete, the rank of the Commander of the Army could rise from Lieutenant General to a four star General. Similarly, there will be an elevation in equivalent ranks in the Navy and the Air Force.

It is against this backdrop of greater militarization that military action is being intensified both in the North and the East. The focus of such action in the North in the recent weeks is the Wanni region, areas ahead of the defended localities of the Security Forces west of the Omanthai entry-exit point. They had in fact re-adjusted their Forward Defence Lines (FDL) further to the front from their original position.

On June 2, the 56 Division (four battalions) and 57 Division (seven battalions) launched a limited pre-dawn operation to seize more terrain. The general areas of Villatikulam, North and North West of the village of Kalmadu (already under Security Forces control) were the scenes of fierce battles.

By 8 a.m. that day, Tiger guerrillas launched a counter attack. Groups of guerrillas confronted the troops almost head on. Heavy fighting continued for over seven hours. Troops were forced to make a tactical withdrawal. Later that evening, the guerrillas fired 130 mm artillery. More than 800 of the Army's own 130 mm artillery shells were destroyed after one of them fell at a storage area south east of Pompeimadu. It led to deafening explosions and a massive bonfire. During the fighting, a group of guerrillas made an attempt to infiltrate the defence lines. Four of them were shot dead. Sporadic fighting in the area has continued in the past several days. Troops are making repeated efforts to move into the area. They are meeting with heavy resistance.

Security Forces were tight lipped about their own casualties. The Sunday Times has learnt from highly placed Army sources that five officers and 67 soldiers were killed. A further two officers and 24 soldiers are declared missing in action. Twenty officers and 298 soldiers were wounded in action. These sources claimed that 800 guerrillas were killed and a further 700 were wounded. The claims of guerrilla casualties, no doubt, are on the higher side.

Adding statistics of claimed guerrilla deaths as well as injuries in the recent months would have surpassed the numbers military top brass give as the total strength of the LTTE. Independent verification of guerrilla casualty figures is not possible. Among the items the Army lost was an armoured Buffel troop carrier that had moved to evacuate casualties, a Jeep, arms and ammunition. A 152 mm heavy artillery gun was damaged.

In the East, since the re-capture of Vakarai the Army had continued their operations until areas astride the A-5 Maha Oya-Chenkaladi Road were brought under Government control. Another operation to seize areas in and around Baroni’s Cap or Thoppigala - Narakamulla began on June 8. Before the crack of dawn that day, commandos ventured into guerrilla-held area to launch attacks on their camps. Some of the camps were captured and later destroyed. By 7.30 a.m. ahead of the villages of Panjimarathadi and Narakamulla, the guerrillas launched fierce counter attacks. By evening troops were forced to make a tactical withdrawal to their original positions north of Rugam.

The next day troops fired artillery at guerrilla positions. It drew retaliatory fire. In the days that followed, they gradually advanced to encompass the area. Bitter fighting continues. Although the original guerrilla strength in the area was said to be around 400, the numbers had dwindled to just over 200 this week - an indication that the guerrillas were withdrawing despite a siege of sorts. At least four guerrillas who surrendered have told the Security Forces how unknown soldiers and members of the Karuna faction, who were held prisoner had been killed by the guerrillas. A prelude to an ultimate withdrawal has also seen the guerrillas trying to step up pressure on the Security Forces. However, they feel the re-capture of the areas, the accomplishment of their aim, is only days away.

In the fighting 15 soldiers have been killed. Six officers and 142 soldiers have been wounded, according to highly placed Army sources. These sources claimed 400 guerrillas were killed and 100 more were wounded. Here again the number is on the higher side. If past guerrilla casualties in the East were added to these figures, it would have exceeded the guerrilla strength there. Independent verification of guerrilla casualties is not possible. The LTTE has in the recent years been playing down its casualty figures. This is where the axiom that truth is the first casualty of war becomes relevant.

At Karadiyanaru, south east of the areas where heavy fighting is now under way, commandos of the Special Task Force (Police) seized a desk top computer used by a senior guerrilla cadre. It was to make some interesting revelations. Commandant of the STF, Nimal Lewke, DIG, told a high level security conference this week that a number of names of those helping the LTTE were found in the computer records. Also found were the names of journalists dealing with the LTTE including some of them from the state media.

The name of a middle aged person from the south, now running a shop in the Welikanda area, has also transpired. This person is said to have worked in the staff of a senior Cabinet Minister who is now closely associating himself with the peace process. There were also records of artillery and ammunition stocks. The regular conference was held to assess the security situation.

It was not only Government leaders, bureaucrats and military top brass who were pre-occupied with security concerns this week. So were some of the country's aid donors. Though Japan's Special Envoy to the peace process, Yasushi Akashi, declared after his visit to Colombo last month there would not be any cut in aid, Tokyo has begun an assessment of fresh aid requirements. Japan is Sri Lanka’s largest aid donor. A delegation from the Japanese Treasury and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was in Colombo for this purpose. At a conference at the Treasury, Brigadier Upul Perera, Director Operations at Army Headquarters gave them a briefing on the security situation. Several probing questions followed. One was the closure of the Bandaranaike Internatio-nal Airport during nights. It was Chief of Defence Staff Air Chief Marshal Donald Perera who announced that it would be open for night flights from next month. It has now been decided that the flight ban from 10.30 p.m. to 4 a.m. would be lifted from July 1.

Another visitor was John Dennis, Additional Director for Asia in Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office. His mission was also to ascertain latest developments in Sri Lanka including opportunities for peace initiatives. This is in the wake of outgoing Prime Minister, Tony Blair’s plans to play the role of a peace broker after retirement. He wants to include Sri Lanka’s case among conflicts where he wants to undertake a mediatory role.

In the wake of stepped up offensives by the Security Forces both in the North and the East, the LTTE appears to have gone into a defensive posture. Several measures to stall a possible advance by troops into guerrilla held areas in the North have been taken. This is by no means an indication that they will cease to play offensive roles. Measures to disrupt normal life in the City by attacking military targets are very much a possibility. This is in addition to threats posed to security installations and military top brass in the North in particular. State intelligence agencies warn that small group attacks, as against conventional type of assault on targets, were being planned. The LTTE has also begun to face a problem of forced conscripts deserting ranks.

Large quantities of anti-tank mines were being planted in areas facing Security Forces FDLs. In the past months, there has also been a marked change in what symbolises a guerrilla cadre – the glass cyanide capsule worn around their necks like a pendant with a black cord. Upon capture, they were known to bite the capsule resulting in instant death. They have now begun to increasingly use a new device - an explosive laden suicide belt. There is a new rationale for its use. Upon capture, detonating the belt results not only in the death of the cadre but also those who capture them.

Whilst stepping up the military offensives in the North and the East, the defence establishment is now devising new ways and means of heightening their publicity drives. This is particularly in the light of political developments that have generated adverse publicity and thus given them a poor public image. Top rungers in the defence establishment believe fresh initiatives to project the "vast military gains" would reverse this situation. One such measure is to brief members of the clergy representing important temples in the country. Military top brass are to give them a full briefing next week on successes in the North and East and the plans that have gone in so far to "defeat" the LTTE.

The idea is to get them to go back to their towns and villages and tell the public there of what they have learnt.
The re-capture of more areas in the East is now a matter of time. This week additional troops have been poured into the area. The move, however, will not rid guerrilla presence completely. The pattern throughout the war has been to resist, allow the troops to spread out and then withdraw. Already troops hold more areas in the East than before. The phenomenon of sporadic attacks therefore will not disappear altogether.

In the North, however, it is a different story. The battles at Vilattiukulam in the Wanni have shown that the guerrillas are offering fierce resistance. They have pumped in additional cadres. This only means more and heavier fighting. Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, who is running the military machine, told foreign correspondents recently that he needs three years to finish the LTTE. The acquisition of new weaponry and the expansion of the military strength will only mean an additional financial burden. This is at a time when the cost of living is proving to be a heavier burden on the public and unbridled corruption including those in military procurements is on the rise.

When the new recruitment drive is over, the total military strength – Army, Navy, Air Force, Police, Special Task Force, Home Guards would be over 300,000. Although military top brass have repeatedly placed the LTTE strength at less than 3,500, intelligence estimates say they are now 20,000 to 25,000. Yet, the disparity in the ratio has continued throughout the different phases of the separatist war. Against this backdrop, the biggest question that looms large is the money to fight the stepped-up war.

One of the oft-repeated assertions at recent meetings of the National Security Council is from Treasury Secretary P.B. Jayasundera. He says there is no money in the Treasury, much to the chagrin of defence and security higher ups. The only option that remains is to call upon the public to tighten their belts even further by making more sacrifices. That is the stark reality, or the naked truth, even if top sleuths choose to visit home in the night to question how such things could be said. No amount of propaganda can hide them.


Sri Lankan elite Special Task Force (STF) police commandos look for explosives

Sri Lankan elite Special Task Force (STF) police commandos look for explosives after a Claymore mine was found in Colombo June 26, 2007. Bomb squad officers said they found the 20 kg mine -- like those used as roadside bombs in a series of deadly suspected rebel attacks in recent months -- buried in a residential quarter of the city. REUTERS/Buddhika Weerasinghe (SRI LANKA)

Monday, June 25, 2007

A tragic ambush - 1994 April


Note: This tragic ambush happened way back in 1994 when there was an offensive to capture Thoppigala was ongoing which ultimately succeeded. However LTTE crawled into Thoppigala when troops deployed there were redeployed in the north.

"In the recent Muhamalai battle II which went wrong for the SLA (although SLA killed over 200 tigers in that), a couple of SLA platoons, many with wounded, got separated from the main units and were later captured by the LTTE and carted off to somewhere in the Vanni. There, the LTTE women cadres are reported to have first danced around the terrified captives screaming wildly and started hacking them with machetes and swords. This info. which came from a Karuna mole in the LTTE, was later confirmed when the dead bodies were handed over to the ICRC and delivered to the SLA whereby almost all the bodies were noticed to have deep cut wounds that a soldier would not get in today's battles.

So, the LTTE treatment of captured SLDF boys is nothing new. I've heard many other stories with gruesome details, but as those have not been published in the media.

When you think that these are the same killers who have raided poor Sinhela farming villages in the Trinco/Ampara districts and carried out horrific atrocities, it is easy to understand this sort of cruelty to captured soldiers is nothing.

In the village attacks, the typical modus-operandi is as follows:

First the LTTE raiders would forcefully grab the infants off their mothers protective hands and then taking the infants by the legs, smash their skulls on mud huts and tree trunks so that the brain matter from the burst skulls would splash onto the screaming mothers who would then be either summarily shot, hacked and left to bleed, or instantly beheaded."


Amnesty International also highlighted the following information about the above mentioned LTTE tactics.

"Kumar* (a pseudonym) was just 12 years old when he smashed the head of a Muslim baby against a wall during an attack on a village. He later described how he felt no remorse about killing the child and then hacking to death the mother. In fact, he said they deserved to die. The attack had been organized by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), an armed Tamil opposition group fighting for an independent state called "Tamil Eelam" in the north and east of Sri Lanka."


Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) / Sinha Guwan Hamudawa

Bullet used in ACF killing removed from evidence?

A bullet being used in an investigation into the killings of 17 aid workers last August may have been removed from evidence, an international legal watchdog said yesterday.

The International Commission of Jurists said its observer on the probe, senior British lawyer Michael Birnbaum, found signs that a 5.56 calibre bullet was removed and substituted with another type in evidence submitted to local magistrates.

Bullets of 5.56 calibre are used in M-16 rifles, the same type of weapon used by some Sri Lankan special forces, the non-governmental organisation added in a statement.

Seventeen local employees of the French charity Action Contre La Faim (Action Against Hunger) were found shot dead in the charity's offices in the northeastern coastal town of Muttur in August 2006.

The murders still have to be solved. Nordic truce monitors have blamed the Muttur killings on government forces, but the government has denied any role in the massacre.

“Given this new information, the ICJ is calling for the President of Sri Lanka to order renewed, impartial and thorough investigations ... and to ensure those responsible are prosecuted,” the statement said.

Mr. Birnbaum had already raised concerns about the ballistics evidence in his main report in April.

In an additional report this month, “he raises serious concerns about evidence that a bullet has been removed from the evidence submitted on March 7 by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) as exhibits to the Kantale Magistrates Court in charge of the inquest,” the ICJ said.

Birnbaum's finding revolves around the report of an Australian pathologist, Malcolm Dodd, who reported that eight bullets -- including one 5.56 calibre -- were recovered from seven bodies during a post mortem examination in October 2006.

However, a government analyst later concluded that all of the bullets appeared to be of 7.62 calibre, according to Mr. Birnbaum.

“There is therefore evidence to indicate that the 5.56 calibre bullet was removed from the evidence submitted as exhibits to the Kantale Magistrate, and that another bullet of a different type was substituted,” the ICJ added.


Japan helps with "Sri lanka Piece process"

While Defence Authorities probed the LTTE’s acquiring of what was believed to be Chinese built military hardware, it has now been revealed that the rebels possess Japanese manufactured equipment, including radars, a Defence official said. The revelation comes after security forces recovered a powerful radar from an LTTE vessel seized by the Navy following a fierce battle off Point Pedro last week.

“It was manufactured in Japan and it is a custom built item for which the manufacturer could be traced together with the buyer,” the official said.He also said four Yamaha 250 horse power engines which were found from the boat were also products of Japan. “Manufactures don’t normally issue such types of engines without proper permission from a government,” the official added.

Earlier it was revealed the 14.5 mm twin barrel weapons fixed on the vessel were Chinese manufactured prompting the relevant authorities to take up the matter with the Chinese government.

The Navy recovered the radar along with several weapons and a Global Positioning System (GPS) from the damaged LTTE vessel last week.


Saturday, June 23, 2007

SF troops rattle LTTE movement; 13 terrorists killed- Vavuniya

The Sri Lankan Army Special Forces (SF) troops rattled an LTTE movement attempting to breach the forward defences west of Omantahi, killing 13 terrorists, while injuring over a dozen other LTTE cadres in a fierce duel, yesterday (23).

According to the Special Force troops, two LTTE terrorist were killed initially attempting to infiltrate the defence lines, at around 09.00a.m, when the alert observation units retaliated.

Later according to the Army officials, the elite forces engaged a large column of terrorists between Madhu and Omantai, when they tried to enter the liberated areas, and drew heavy fire from the Army troops. 11 terrorists were killed while the LTTE concentration was dispersed into all directions, rattled by the enormous SF fire power.

The Special Forces corps, a battle hardened elite unit of the SL security forces, who with their enormous fire capability is a most feared combat unit amongst the LTTE.


London Police ready to file action against Shanthan – Tiger leader in UK

Latest reports from London indicate that London Metropolitan Police who holds A.C.Santhan, Head of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Britain at the Paddingtomn Green Police Station, has decided to file action against him.

The Police have decided to file initially the charge of “conspiring to collect funds for a proscribed organization. “

The reference to “a proscribed organization” in the charge sheet points to the proscription of the Tamil Tigers on 28 February 2001 under the Terrorism Act 2000.

Shanthan has been arrested and held in police custody under the Terrorism Act. Sources revealed that anyone arrested under the Terrorism Act is allowed to be held under Police custody for 28 days.

In case the Police need to hold a person for more than 28 days they could do so on a special court’s order.

Information revealed after the arrest of Shanthan, police has raided four properties located in the South London yesterday.

It is further revealed that Police has taken with them large amount of documents from the houses they raided. Also it is learnt they have taken with them several computers and documents.


Shanthan – the key to Tiger operations in UK

The arrest of A. C. Shanthan, the No: 1 Tiger agent in UK, has been a big blow to the Tiger movement in Europe. His links to Anton Balasingham, the London-based ideologue, makes him one of the principal agents of the Tigers. Shanthan who is held in Paddington Green, Paddington is being continuously grilled by the Police in United Kingdom regarding the activities of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Shanthan was arrested under Terrorism Act and Police expect him to be a mine of information on Tamil Tiger operations in Europe.

It is learnt that UK police are liaising with the French police to investigate clues leading to the murder of two LTTE operatives in Paris a few years ago. Kandiah Perinpanathan formerly the LTTE's treasurer and Kajan of the Eelamurasu were killed in Paris.

Police sources alleged that Shanthan in operations that involved forcible collection of funds, threats, intimidations, abductions, illegal confinement of those opposed to the LTTE, and harassment and torture.

According to police sources, Shanthan is the man behind the operations of his second in command Robert Soosaipillai who was involved in abducting and illegally confining Tamil diaporas and harassing and torturing.

UK Police according to reliable sources have details of abducting and confining anti-LTTE people at Thamilini Cash and Carry located at South hall, Middlesex which earlier belonged to the LTTE. Now it is owned by one Aravinthan and Ilankovan. One of the partners Ilankovan is now under arrest in Chennai on allegation of credit card scam.

Police sources revealed that abducted Tamils are taken to the storeroom of the Tamilini Cash and Carry and their hands and feet tied, mouth plastered and harassed and tortured.

Sources close to the police also revealed that Shanthan has a property in Katherine Road in Eastham, a safe-house used for illegal confinement.

Police sources revealed that Shanthan was involved in credit skimming, cloning and credit card scam.

Further more police suspects that Shanthan is involved in money laundering. Two private money exchanges owned by a Tamil man and woman located near the Hydepark and Marble Arch tube stations were made use by Shanthan for the money laundering activities.


UK anti-errorist police strike at LTTE

Fifty-one year old A.C.Shanthan, a relative of LTTE leader Pirihaparan's wife Mathivathani by marriage and formerly closely associated with "Col Kittu" who committed suicide when confronted by the Indian navy, was arrested early yesterday morning by the British anti-terrorism police and intelligence agents at his house.

More than 20 armed policemen has surrounded his house and arrested Shanthan in connection with LTTE activities which are prohibited in the UK because the LTTE is a proscribed organization.

Shanthan is the President of the British Tamil Association but the police think that he is the LTTE's UK head.

Also arrested yesterday morning was 29-year old Goldan Lambert also from the BTA.

Police have been monitoring their activities for a long time after they had organized a big meeting at London's Hyde Park in support of the LTTE and speakers praised the LTTE and its leader.

Police found according to a police source as Shanthan was involved in numerous illegal activities in United Kingdom. Police is of the opinion that Shanthan was involved in abduction, illegal detentions, harassment and torture of Tamils who opposed the LTTE in London.

Police had information from several other police forces and from investigations after the arrest in India of one Ilankovan, a shareholder of Tamilini, a cash-and-carry store in the UK.

Shathan is also suspected of laundering money for the LTTE using several money exchange businesses including some situated in central London.

Recently the LTTE has been trying to sell several of its assets including property.

Why the LTTE is trying to get rid of them, some inside sources say, is because it needs hard cash to buy arms urgently in order to meet military attacks in the Jaffna peninsula which are being planned.

Shanthan who hails from Udupiddy has been watched by police because of reports that members of the Tamil community have been harrassed and forced to donate funds to the LTTE. Many Tamil businessmen and families have been forced to contribute to wards the "final war". They have been even threatened with abduction if they do not contribute.

One of the properties that Shanthan has been trying to sell is in East Ham. It used to be occupied several years ago by Daya Master who returned to the Wanni and is now the LTTE's spokesman. This property has been used as a safe house and also to keep persons Shanthan has kept under detention.

Police are said to be investigating several other Tamils and Tamil businesses closely associated with Shanthan.

One person who was recently interrogated by the police is Anandevi Perimpanayagam to find out about the movement of money according to information released by Tamil sources.

Several money exchanges and travel businesses are being watched by police who think that money transactions that eventually go into LTTE funds are going on in some of them.
Police also think that Shanthan, his second in command Robert Soosaipillai and his associates have been involved in credit card scam and also involved in skimming and cloning credit cards that have been used by LTTE cadres in many parts of the world. Some of those cadres have been arrested abroad.

Police who have investigated the recent credit card scams at petrol filling stations is several parts of the UK are also looking for connections between that and the LTTE.


North-east insurgents in Britain

The perceptible increase in the bloody manifestations of the several insurgencies in the north-east, more particularly that conducted by the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) has more to do with geopolitics than any expectation of success in their mission. ULFA’s mindless attacks on Hindi-speaking migrant labour and petty businessmen have already boomeranged at some places when terrorists caught in the act of extortion were lynched. That sentiment has yet to acquire the momentum of a groundswell but it should give the ULFA something to pause and ponder.

So far as the talks with the NSCN (I-M) are concerned, they have pulled back several times from the brink of collapse which would have ignited a fresh round of open hostilities. The current ceasefire is up for renewal and there are signs of frustration among the insurgents that there have been no tangible signs of progress.

Central to the Naga issue is the integration of Naga majority areas in contiguous States of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, and Manipur which are vehemently opposed to the creation “Greater Nagaland”. On at least one occasion the depth of antagonism became came upfront. Manipur burst into flames during the NDA regime when Delhi indicated it might consider the demand. On the other hand, the Nagaland assembly has on several occasions passed resolutions calling for integration of Naga areas.

Between the two postures there does not appear to be much room for manoeuvre, calls for “transparency” notwithstanding. The geopolitical scenario is also acquiring new dimensions. Last year the NSCN (I-M) delegation had travelled to China raising the spectre of a fresh dose of Chinese-sponsored insurgency on India’s north-eastern flank. The latest development in which China has asserted its claims on Arunachal Pradesh will further tend to muddy prospects for peace not just in the north-east but further afield as well.

A British Labour MP of Kashmiri descent, Lord Nazir Ahmed, has once again managed to bring together in London in May on one platform the Sikh Khalistani separatists and the Naga (I-M) group. The worrying aspect is that here is British lawmaker who is involved in promoting “self-determination” for organisations that have not hesitated to use terror tactics in trying to attain their goal of separation. This, even as Britain itself is suffering the consequences of terrorist attacks from home-grown Islamic fundamentalists who have received training and indoctrination in Pakistan. It is natural in this context to put question marks over the West’s commitment to fight terrorism.

The London conclave adopted a resolution that devoted a paragraph on “Indian colonialism” against the Kashmiris, the Nagas, Assamese, the people of Manipur, the Bodos, but the central theme was the revival of the Khalistan movement in Punjab. Ever since the Sikh separatists were crushed in the late 80s, Pakistan has been maintaining a special cell within the Pakistan Army’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to try and resuscitate it and one of its former directors-general was appointed to head the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee. His name is Lt-General Javed Naseer. The sporadic bomb blasts in Delhi and Punjab two years ago were credited to the Babbar Khalsa which is funded and maintained by the ISI.

Instead of making its displeasure known to the NSCN (I-M) for attending the London conclave it would be more appropriate for Delhi to take up the matter with London and let it know that such dual standards of fighting global terrorism on the one hand and pandering to it on the other will not be in its own interest much less of India’s.

The consequences of such encouragement to terrorism have long-term effect and India must jog British memory to the days when “President” of Khalistan Jagjit Singh Chauhan (he died recently in India) who was provided consular facilities by the American Government to obtain a passport and Britain provided him sanctuary and the propaganda wherewithal to propagate his brand of terror.

With all the proof at their disposal both Britain and the US should be able to bring more pressure to bear on the Government of Pakistan to stamp out the germs of terrorism that germinate on its soil. But before that they must practice what they preach and in any case dissuade parliamentarians from stoking the embers.


Karuna imposes taxes on Tamil civilians

Karuna group is now raising fund by imposing taxes on those fishermen living in the Government controlled areas in Batticaloa and Amparai. It is learnt that Karuna group is also collecting information about the individuals and family incomes in the two districts through the Grama Servaka officers. They are preparing a list of the shopkeepers and businesses in the Government controlled area with a view to impose taxes.

On the last 13th , Karuna’s commanders Sinnathamby, Veera, Mangalan and Ranjan met the fishermen in Batticaloa and ordered them to pay taxes due on their boats with immediate effect.

They have ordered that owners of large motorized boat to pay monthly Rs.3000, Karavalai boat Rs. 1500 and Dhoniy Rs. 1000 each

Karuna’s Group also has imposed Rs. 100/ per bullock-cart for a cart load of sand to the cart owners.

Three-wheelers in the Batticaloa – Amparai districts are ordered to pay monthly Rs.2500 as tax to the Karuna group. In the beginning three-wheeler drivers in Kalmunai resisted the payment of tax.

Resistance by the three-wheeler drivers was viewed as a challenge to Karuna’s authority in the East.

Subsequently, Gopi Kanth, Karuna’s man in Kalmunai shot and killed one three-wheeler driver who opposed the payment of tax. Following the killing in Kalmunai, it is learnt that the three-wheeler drivers have already submitted and started paying taxes to Karuna group.

People in the East who live in the Government controlled areas are petrified because of the threats from the Karuna group.