Saturday, May 05, 2007

The fear of LRRP attacks

A soldier of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) patrols along a rural road in rebel held territory of Kilinochchi, about 270 kilometers (169 miles) northeast of Colombo, Sri Lanka, April 19, 2007. Five years after a cease-fire brought a measure of relief to Sri Lanka, a ferocious ethnic war is again raging between a government dominated by the country's Sinhalese majority and the Tamil Tigers, rebels from the Tamil minority who are probably best known for suicide bombings. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

The Fear of LRRP

Civilians make their way as a Tamil rebel fighter of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), right, patrols in a rural road in rebel held territory of Kilinochchi, about 270 kilometers (169 miles) north east of Colombo, Sri Lanka,Thursday, April. 19,2007. Day and night, warplanes roar over this rebel-held town as the steady thump of artillery echoes in the distance — a preview, many fear, of a military showdown in Sri Lanka that could leave thousands dead. (AP Photo / Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Captain Nilam Missing

Captain Nilam, the previous leader of SLA deep penetration unit (codename 'Mahasohon Brigade') has gone missing in Indonesia. His family members are also reported to be missing. We cannot confirm whether he was kidnapped by LTTE supporters or whether he went into hiding.

Captain Nilam was working against the LTTE arms trafficking network in Indonesia and his protection was ensured by Mgr Gen Janaka Perera who was the Srilankan ambassador in Indonesia. It is most likely that Captain Nilam went into hiding knowing that LTTE cadres will attempt to assassinate him after the removal of Janaka Perera as ambassador 2 weeks ago.

Captain Nilam who was assigned to the Military Intelligence Corps, lead many successful DPU operations against the LTTE including the assassination of Shankar, Prabhakaran's right hand man.


Some thoughts on Millennium safe house

The proper military concept of a safe house is a secret operational base within an enemy area or in close proximity there to, and dominated by the enemy. The Millennium City Safe House must be the first safe house ever, in a safe area. In fact as the description itself implies that safe houses are only established in unsafe areas. The description "safe" is in relation to an enemy threat of an imminent nature. It could be said that Athurugiriya was even safer than Colombo. An intelligence cell and a safe house are both secret bases, the former being for purposes of obtaining information and intelligence by secretly meeting informants and the latter for varied secret operations such as sabotage, destructions, assassinations, raids and even espionage etc. The main differences being the location and the concerns of secrecy.

A safe house has to be behind enemy lines or in close proximity there to, and absolute secrecy is a must. According to the statement of the Director Military Intelligence [D.M.I.] Capt. Nilam on being recalled to Colombo was initially attached to the "Forward Intelligence Cell", which was then located at the army camp at Kohuwela. This same intelligence cell and not a "safe house" was shifted to the house belonging to Capt. Nilam's wife, within a housing scheme at Athurugiriya. The reference to this secret intelligence cell as a safe house confuses the issues consequent to the discovery of the storage of high explosive materials and lethal weapons therein.

An issue arises of the storage and the establishment of unauthorised arsenal, however temporary, without due regard for the safety and security of the said stores and the neighbourhood too. According to established Military procedure the minimum requirement was the provision of an armed guard at least as a temporary measure until these high explosive materials were transported to and returned as ordered by the D.M.I. These measures would not have been necessary, if in keeping with the usual army procedure, that arrangements were made to return these explosives without delay on the arrival of Capt. Nilam with these lethal stores.

This should also have been the response particularly in view of the very serious allegation that army had plans to blast the bus with the Prime Minister in it, with a thermobaric rocket; and also the Army Commander's assurance denying the existence of such a plan.

The relocation of this "Forward Intelligence Cell" at Athurugiriya from the army camp at Kohuwela as described above cannot be said to be appropriate as the decision to lease the house belonging to Capt. Nilam's spouse as it would also amount to a conflict of interest.

But, there are important requirements for an intelligence cell. That is the assurance of secrecy, security and convenience to those informants visiting this intelligence cell at the new location at Athurugiriya. In fact such informants must be made aware of the risks and other dangers that they may expose themselves to, which also applies to intelligence officers as well. It is most important that the identities of informants are secret and that even from the other informants too. Such exposure would be only if it is a necessity. These requirements appear to have been meaningless as access to this Millennium Park cell was subject to one's identification by the civilian security staff at the gates of The Millennium Park. Further, the informants would be conspicuous on their ethnicity and social status being mostly Tamil LTTE deserters.

According to the D.M.I. Capt. Nilam was at that point of time under "serious threat" from the L.T.T.E. and therefore had to be under the active surveillance of L.T.T.E. agents. According to Capt. Nilam, his information was that he was to be targeted by a suicide bomber. In this context the move from the Kohuwela army camp to Athurugiriya with Capt. Nilam in charge of this intelligence cell is not only inexplicable, but perhaps even suicidal.

It is said that Capt. Nilam and his men were based at this cell to engage in long-range reconnaissance patrols [L.R.R.Ps], and deep penetration fighting patrols. Such patrols are a special task of well trained infantrymen and sometimes of the commandos. Troops from services and non-combatant units are not deployed on such tasks or roles. The D.M.I. and Captain Nilam are both from non-combatant units.

Fighting patrols engage in offensive operations such as ambushes, raids, destruction or attacks on enemy installations, gun position and emery outposts and even abductions of enemy cadres for purposes of interrogation to obtain intelligence etc. These operations and the planning of such operations are the function and responsibility of the combatant formations on the ground in forward positions. Intelligence officers are attached to such formations to furnish the necessary information for the planning of such operations.

The responsibility and function of the Directorate of Intelligence is to obtain and furnish timely and accurate intelligence to the respective operational formations, which is a very important requirement to ensure properly planned successful operations both offensive and defensive. It is not understood, therefore how a group of simple informants were engaged in deep penetration and long-range reconnaissance patrols.

These patrols require a high degree of infantry skills in addition to mental and physical toughness as they are dangerous and risky. The planning of such deep penetration patrols have to be meticulous and provision has to be made for several contingencies, sometimes even for rescue or even betrayal by accompanying informants on some occasions. These patrols may be over several days and communication with the base would be mostly by code requiring a high degree of communication skills too. It would take quite some time to condition even trained infantrymen for such patrols. These patrols are beyond the scope and functions of The Directorate Of Military Intelligence but are under the authority and responsibility of The Directorate Of Operations And Planning. These patrols are launched from forward positions nearest to the enemy area to be patrolled, and not from alleged "Safe Houses" very many miles away.

Covert Operations are also a very important form of military operations particularly in the context of anti-terrorist action. These operations have to be handled with caution. There is always the risk of infiltration by L. T. T. E. agents etc. It has been reported that once these agents entrusted with explosives for such a mission had straight away taken the entire lot of explosives and handed them over to the L.T.T.E. The L.T.T.E. would have obtained a wealth of information too from this agent. The handling of such "informants" or more appropriately "agents" is a skilled and a dangerous task. There was also the exposure of the training of an informant in the firing of thermobaric rockets at the Panaluwa Range. The bane of our military effort against the L.T.T.E. terrorists over the last twenty years has been the lack of accurate and timely information. This was also a finding by the Court of Inquiry into the debacles at Pooneryn. This was also undoubtedly a factor in the subsequent debacles at Mullaitivu and Elephant Pass. Good timely and accurate intelligence is an all-important factor in military operations against terrorists.

Furthermore, the expenditure on intelligence is secret and also not subject to audit. In addition to the requirements mentioned it is desirable that the Director of Intelligence is an officer with a combatant background and operational experience. It should be so in respect of the other officers too as far as possible. Such officers would be better equipped to assess and evaluate the intelligence in the correct perspectives, and exploit them to the best advantage.

There was an alleged involvement of army personnel in election violence particularly at Udathalawinna, where several civilians have been killed by shooting. The suspects are mostly serving soldiers, and there was some information or perhaps speculation that of one the suspects was hiding in Millennium City hideout, which by then had become an open secret.

What is not understandable is this thermobaric rocket and other explosive materials being still retained in an unauthorised location and readily available for use in spite of the assurance to the UNP hierarchy by the Commander of the Army that there was no such preparation to blast the bus with the prime minister in it. According to the D.M.I., he had ordered that the explosives be removed on the 28th of December 01.

This had not happened, although it should have been a first priority task. The police raid was on the night of 2nd January 02. What did eventually happen should be viewed in the light of the possible dangers such as a fire even accidental, or sabotage or even betrayal similar to the fate of the Police Inspector at the Dehiwela Police Station. In that context Capt. Nilam would need to have been mindful of the threat to him by a suicide bomber as the "cease-fire" had been proclaimed only a couple of weeks ago.