|Taking them one by one
The LTTE struck at the nerve centre of the Sri Lanka military
when it infiltrated a suicide cadre into the very premises of
the army headquarters and carried out a daring attack on the
life of Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka. General Fonseka
escaped narrowly and is still recovering from the injuries he
sustained. This is not the first time the LTTE staged an attack
in a defence nerve centre. Once it rammed an explosives-laden
truck into the Joint Operations Command down Flower Road and on
another occasion it staged a shoot out just outside the army
Barely two months after the April 25 attack at the army
headquarters, the LTTE struck again when they killed Deputy
Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Parami Kulatunga using another suicide
bomber. He was travelling from his residence to his office in
Colombo. The LTTE targeted two of the most battle-hardened high
ranking officers in the army - Fonseka and Kulatunga. It must be
remembered that this was the first occasion in the history of
the army that the three top positions were held by officers from
The LTTE knew very well that the Chief of Staff, Nanda
Mallawarachchi was due to retire in two months before Fonseka’s
period of extension lapses in December. The Tigers went for the
No. 3 who was also due to retire in October as it is widely
believed that the LTTE was keen on resuming hostilities after
staging a series of attacks in ‘Black July’. (See box stories
for LTTE’s previous prize targets in July).
It need not be said that the aim of the LTTE through attacks on
the top military brass is to decapitate the leadership and
demoralize the armed forces, before they move into full-scale
war. LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran had made it clear in his
Heroes Day message in November last year that he would resume
hostilities in 2006 after allowing the President some breathing
Done with the first half of the year, the LTTE is now set to
intensify guerilla attacks to slip into full-scale hostilities.
But, the military is not easily biting the bait and even the
calculated air raids have ceased after pressure from India. In
the aftermath of the Parami Kulataunga killing the SLAF did not
undertake air raids like it did after the abortive attempt on
the life of the army commander and the claymore mine attack on a
civilian bus in Kebbethigollewa.
Apart from the military’s restraint, many defence sources
attribute a delay in the LTTE resuming hostilities to Karuna’s
exploits in the East. Karuna, who is on an expansion drive, has
unsettled the LTTE in the East. So much so, that he has warned
the Wanni Tigers operating in the East to quit before it was too
late. There is so much infiltration that Karuna himself is
overcautious when dealing with new recruits. Like the Wanni
Tigers he is forcibly recruiting children for the war to
liberate the East. It has now come to light that one reason why
Karuna fled in the face of the LTTE onslaught on his forces on
April 10, 2004 was that he was being misled by Ramanan who
turned out to be a double agent. He was recently sniped. The
LTTE is under severe threat from Karuna who seems to be calling
the shots in the East.
While the first three are from the Infantry, the fourth in the
order of seniority, Major General Sharman Kulatunga from the
Armoured Corps is tipped to become the Army Commander when Major
General Mallawarachchi retires in two months. The LTTE has
struck a major blow by rendering the army commander indisposed
for nearly three months, while the third in line was liquidated
and the second will be forced to retire if the Commander carries
on till his extension expires. Miffed with certain decisions
Major General P. Chandrawansa has put up his papers for
retirement and a few Majors General and Brigadiers are trying to
follow suit. Already Brigadiers Rizvi Zacky and Rohan Jayasinghe
have retired prematurely.
The army cannot afford to lose any more senior officers either
by way of premature retirement.
Chief of Defence Staff, Donald Perera, Secretary Defence,
Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Deputy Defence Minister Ratnasiri
Wickremanayake and President Mahinda Rajapaksa must address this
serious problem in the interest of the country.
The entire defence establishment must also work towards maximum
protection of not just the top brass of the army but the
hierarchy of all three armed forces who are targeted by the LTTE
in the run up to a possible resumption of hostilities. Like Lt.
Gen. Parami Kulatunga, former Navy Commander Rear Admiral Clancy
Fernando was killed by a suicide bomber who slammed his
motorcycle into the convoy in front of the Galle Face.
As, is often the case, security lapses that led to both recent
suicide attacks came to light only after the damage had been
done. But has the stable door been closed even after the
proverbial horse has bolted?
The purpose of sleuths investigating into such incidents should
be to uncover the Tiger network as well as to stay ahead of the
enemy and prevent similar attacks in the future. The
investigation into the attack on the Army Commander’s life was
carried out briskly by experienced officers of the Criminal
Investigation Department who were also behind cracking the plot
of previous terrorist attacks, such as the attack on the
Although various reports appearing soon after the attack on
General Fonseka had it that the suicide bomber had been
pregnant, the CID sleuths ruled this out quite early in the
probe. There had been no evidence to indicate that she was
pregnant as the blood samples collected from the crime scene
were not adequate to establish the claim. Also, there were no
medical records at the hospital to indicate such a condition.
While the investigators were putting piece by piece together in
the mosaic, the army now has a picture as to how the entire
attack was planned and carried out. With the help of modern
technology the suicide bombers’ whereabouts were slowly
established. However the investigations were not yet complete at
the time the Inspector General of Police, Chandra Fernando
jumped the gun. Police Chief Fernando called a press conference
on Wednesday to divulge the findings. He even handed over a
photograph of the suicide bomber recovered by the police
investigators which appeared on the front pages of newspapers
the following day.
The logic of the IGP’s action has been questioned by many
military analysts as well as those well versed in intelligence
and counter-terrorism work. Taking a cue from the current
football fever, most compare this to the captain of a team
announcing victory at half time. The general contention is that
such action could hamper further progress in the investigation
aimed at cracking the main LTTE network in Colombo and the rest
of the country.
It had been established during the investigation that there
would have been an inside link which helped the suicide bomber
infiltrate the army headquarter’s high security zone. It is also
suspected that this person and other accomplices would have
notified the suicide bomber just as the Army Commander was
leaving his office for lunch to the Chalet located within the
Army headquarters complex in his official vehicle at around
1.30pm. According to findings, the suicide bomber had received a
call on her cellular phone before the explosion. The
investigators had concluded that this information must have been
provided by a person who had knowledge of the Army Commander’s
movements or was in clear visibility of him. As long as this
LTTE spy inside the Army remains at large the military
establishment in the country is in danger and further calamities
can be expected.
The attempt on the life of General Sarath Fonseka was made on
April 25. But the preparations for this attack by the LTTE had
started well over a year ago and had been meticulously carried
out. General Fonseka, who had the reputation of being a battle-
hardened soldier, was naturally a target of the LTTE regardless
of the position he held.
The LTTE tapped 27-year-old Shanmugalingam Suriyakumar to give
shelter to their suicide cadre while he was moving to and from
Jaffna along the A-9 road after it was opened when the ceasefire
came into operation. Suriyakumar was from Chunnakam Jaffna, but
had moved to Rambukkana area and had settled down there. He was
a driver and was married to a Sinhala girl from Rambukkana. They
had one child. At the time he was arrested Suriyakumar owned a
Suriyakumar had also driven a lorry while visiting Jaffna which
had met with a fatal accident. He had to go to Jaffna regularly
thereafter to attend the subsequent court case. It is believed
that he would have been pinched by the LTTE while passing
through the LTTE checkpoints on the A-9 road.
After taking him into confidence, the LTTE operatives then
introduced to him the would-be suicide bomber, identified as
35-year-old Kanapathipillai Manjuladevi. Suriyakumar was to
provide lodging to Manjuladevi at his residence and he was
compensated for doing so. To his wife, Suriyakumar introduced
Manjuladevi as a cousin – uncle’s daughter. She had got on with
the family well. Suriyakumar’s wife had also come to be in
possession of jewellery during this period.
Although Manjuladevi was believed to be from Anuradhapura, it
creates serious doubts whether the Tigers, known to cover their
paw marks, would leave any trace by recruiting a person from a
However, it has been established that the human bomb could speak
fluent Sinhala and had been always reading Sinhala newspapers
and books late into the night. While at Rambukkana she had
obtained an identity card as well through fraudulent means.
Later, on the insistence of Manjuladevi and with the money the
LTTE provided through her, Suriyakumar rented a house in
Weliweriya which was closer to Colombo and moved there. The
house, belonging to a retired Public Health Inspector, was
rented out for Rs. 3,500 a month. The retired PHI who however
has been exonerated, appears to be an innocent party who rented
out his premises.
Manjuladevi had been coming to Colombo regularly from this
location and it is suspected that she would have been
associating with her “handler” in Colombo and getting ready for
the impending attack. On the last occasion she had gone back to
the Weliweriya house, she had had rice with a dry fish curry for
dinner. The next morning she had dressed as usual in a Salwar
and had taken two bags with her.
The investigators are still to find the identity of her
“handler” in Colombo and the safe-house where she got ready for
the suicide attack by donning the explosive jacket. The
“handler” is found to have operated mainly from Slave Island,
Maradana, Pettah and Wellawatta.
After these preparations spanning over a year, Manjuladevi,
dressed in a green Salwar with the explosives-laden jacket
strapped to her body walked into the motorcade of General Sarath
Fonseka on April 25, exploding herself. She was waiting in front
of the army hospital for General Fonseka’s vehicle to emerge. It
is suspected that she had come into the premises on the pretext
of attending a clinic at the army hospital for relatives of
service personnel. There had been four clinics on that day
including a clinic for pregnant mothers, which gave rise to the
notion that the suicide bomber was pregnant.
Eleven persons were killed in the explosion and 27 others
sustained injuries. The badly damaged head of Majuladevi was
recovered from a branch of a tree in the vicinity of the
It still remains a mystery as to why this girl became a deadly
human bomb for the LTTE and how she got recruited by the Tigers
to carry out a mission that would cost her life.
It had also come to light that they had purchased one cellular
phone using the genuine identity card of a soldier who was
reported missing in action after the Elephant Pass camp attack
by the LTTE.
There are several questions arising from the investigation
concerning security lapses at the Army headquarters. It had been
revealed that the issuing of passes to patients, visitors and
the staff had been done in a hap-hazard manner by the
responsible authorities. The military hospital too had not kept
proper records of those who attended the clinics.
The military will have to beef up the security within the
establishment and preventive measures should be urgently taken
to stem informants and spies from within. This would protect the
military from losing more of its leadership in the future.
At this point of time it would be appropriate to remember the
words of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher after a
bombing by the IRA. She said, “They have to be lucky only once
but we have to be lucky always.”
An analysis of LTTE attacks over the years show that the
organisation has become more and more sophisticated in their
operations. The Tigers seem to be ahead always and therefore the
military intelligence apparatus should pre-empt the LTTE and
strike before it does.
It must be acknowledged that CID investigators, with limited
resources, have been able to make a breakthrough. While we
earlier emphasised the importance of pre-empting possible LTTE
strikes, it must be mentioned that thorough investigations into
previous attacks would help the authorities in the preventive
measures to be undertaken. For this, the government of the day
must place at the disposal of the investigating agencies the
latest sophisticated technology and afford the necessary
The work of the CID, needless to say, should not be hampered by
ill-timed statements from any quarter, for such indiscretion
will amount to pulling the rug from under the feet of the
dedicated and capable officers. In the national interest, The
Nation has deliberately withheld certain information. But again
in the interest of the country this column wishes to record a
warning that the defence establishment must seriously take the
necessary precautions as the LTTE is clearly targeting the top
brass in the armed forces because leadership, experience and
expertise are not easily replaceable and certainly not overnight
as Eelam War IV is not far off. The military top brass are in
this regard different from political targets. The problem is
that a human bomb is different from any other kind of lethal
weapon. It is unorthodox and therefore calls for unorthodox
responses. There is no substitute for unrelenting and
sophisticated intelligence work.
LTTE’s Black July targets:
July 27, 1975: Murder of Jaffna Mayor, Alfred Duraiappah.
July 13, 1983: LTTE’s first landmine attack killing 13 soldiers.
July 5, 1987: First Black Tiger suicide attack on Nelliady
Central College where troops were billeted.
July 13, 1989: TULF leader, Appapillai Amirthalingam, is
July 16, 1989: PLOTE leader, Uma Maheswaran, is assassinated.
July 25, 1993: Attack on Janakapura Army detachment.
July 30, 1995: Land mine explosion kills Brigadier Nalin
Angammana and three other army personnel at Mukkural, Batticaloa.
July 4, 1996: Brigadier Ananda Hamangoda and SSP Carlyle Dias
dies in a suicide bomb attack in Jaffna town.
July 14, 1996: LTTE shoots down Pucara bomber aircraft
July 16, 1996: Sea Tigers attack the Navy’s command ship “Edithara.”
July 18, 1996: LTTE attack on Mullaitivu military base.
July 19, 1996: Attack on Navy gunboat “Ranaviru.”
July 24, 1996: Bomb explosion on Colombo-Alutgama train at
Dehiwala kills 60 civilians.
July 25, 1999: Suicide bomber attacks vessel Newco Endurance
July 29, 1999: Suicide bomber assassinates Dr. Neelan
Dying with enemy after dining with chief
LTTE has made the dubious achievement of becoming the world
leader in suicide attacks. The organisation has carried out more
suicide attacks than Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hizballah and the
Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) all combined. They also boast of a
success rate which would be the envy of any terrorist
organisation. The high profile targets of this elite unit
include Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, President Premadasa,
Navy Commander Clancy Fernando and many other political and
military leaders of the country. According to LTTE propaganda
more than 270 suicide cadres have been killed since the first
such attack on an army camp in 1987.
The suicide unit of the LTTE has played a decisive role in their
operations since the first such attack by “Captain” Millar on
July 5, 1987. On that occasion Millar drove a truck laden with
explosives into an army camp in Vadamaarachchi killing over 40
soldiers involved in Operation Liberation. Since then the elite
suicide cadre has become a cult figure in the LTTE with many
more launching daring attacks against the Sri Lankan state. The
cadres are said to rejoin their ordinary military units after
undergoing training to be a suicide bomber. Therefore even among
the regular LTTE cadres the identity of an elite suicide cadre
would be unknown. Suicide cadres have been extensively used in
operations against the Sri Lanka Navy after the Black Sea Tiger
wing was established by the Sea Tiger leader Soosai.
The most daring attack carried out by a group of suicide cadres
was the attack on the Colombo International Airport in July
2001. Few months before the September 11 attacks in the United
States, the LTTE had plans to hijack planes from Katunayake and
fly them on a suicide mission on selected targets in Colombo.
This was revealed when it was discovered that some members of
the team involved in the airport attack were trained pilots.
An important moment in a suicide cadre’s life is his or her
meeting with LTTE leader Prabhakaran. Since his public
appearances are limited, meeting Prabhakaran is a lifetime goal
for many of the young cadres of the LTTE. In fact, Prabhakaran
has very carefully cultivated this image of a demi-god. Before
the mission, the Black Tigers have their last meal with their
leader, which is considered a lifetime honour for its cadres.
On November 26, 2002 few months after the signing of the
ceasefire agreement the Black Tiger unit of the LTTE took part
in a public ceremony for the first time. The LTTE has maintained
that the suicide cadres are part of their military arsenal and
claims that they play a pivotal role in maintaining the balance
of power with the Sri Lankan military.