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Military Matters


 

‘Cool’ Cat had seven lives

International connection between Karuna’s arrest and Thamilselvan’s killing

Leaving behind the debacle at the Anuradhapura air base a fortnight back, the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) is more determined to go ahead with military operations to make a significant contribution in this war.
Not only will it go ahead and replace the destroyed UAVs and some of the aircraft, as directed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the SLAF would also speed up work to expand the runway for its Kfir fighter jets to take off from Anuradhapura.
Like accuracy and good intelligence, time is a key element in air raids. Hence, the decision to fly from Anuradhapura, with reinforced security.
Meanwhile, the parallel inquiries by the SLAF on the base attack as well as the destruction of the Bell 212 helicopter, and the CID are continuing.

Unlike at Anuradhapura, where there was a clear case of negligence on the part of a couple of officers, the inquiry into the Katunayake air base attack, found that the guns failed to function. The final report is due to be released shortly.
Despite the loss of the Beechcraft reconnaissance aircraft and UAVs, the SLAF is determined to put its MiG 27s fighter jets and Kfir supersonic jets that have been saved, to good use.
By this, the SLAF is determined to prove that its combat operations have not been hampered by the Aunradhapura debacle, in general, and the surveillance losses, in particular.

Vivid video clips of targets taken on air raids, whenever there was a controversy that civilians were targeted, has been shown from time to time
These clips were courtesy the Raytheon Beechcraft 200 HISAR (Hughes Integrated Surveillance & Reconnaissance System) which flies above the fighter jets.
Not only could pictures be taken, even conversation on the ground, is clear to the surveillance aircraft at 30,000 feet.

SLAF proves a point
Confident of its accuracy, for the first time in almost a decade, the SLAF undertook a mission in a civilian populated area southeast of Kilinochchi at Thiruvaiaru, in Iranamadu. The target was the LTTE’s underground international communication centre, not far from civilian settlements. Thamilselvan was expected on Thursday night, the military was tipped off. Hence, the early morning raid followed by another raid on a Black Tiger facility in East Iranamadu.
The day before (Thursday) the SLAF undertook another bombing mission of an LTTE training camp in Kokkuthuduwai, Mulllativu at 6:30 a.m.
Thamilselvan least expected Friday’s attack, as almost all raids conducted during ‘Eelam War IV’ have largely been on jungle hideouts, including their underground facilities. Bunker buster bombs have been used in the past several months, and this time too, successfully. As Senpathi reported previously, the military has identified various locations used by LTTE Leader Prabhakaran and other leaders, and would not hesitate to have a go at them. This operation would be made easier if the Kfir jets take off from Anuradhapura, the SLAF opines. The moment the Kfir jets leave Katunayake, the message is conveyed to those tasked with handling Prabhakaran’s security.
There is also a military fallout from this latest attack.
Civilians in LTTE controlled areas, would now try to keep their distance from LTTE facilities. Tiger leaders would now try to avoid places they previously frequented.
Both Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and Air Force Commander Roshan Gunetilleke cautioned the pilots to conduct Friday’s early morning attack from low altitude, owing to the civilian settlements. Accordingly, the most senior flyers in the capacity of Commanding Officers, were handpicked for the operation.

Thamilselvan not where he should have been
The target, Thamilselvan, was in Pooneryn on Wednesday. The political chief had been appointed Special Commander to oversee military operations there, according to the military. This only suggests that the LTTE has a manpower problem. Another school of thought to explain his presence in Pooneryn was that he was banished there after an incident concerning the fairer sex.
Prabhakaran, in recent months, re-employed the old law and executed three to four LTTErs for issues concerning women.
After the 2002 peace talks, Prabhakaran relaxed the ban on marriage and seniors were allowed to marry. Col. Soosai recently lost his son to an accident at sea, which put the Sea Tiger leader out of action for months.
Thamilselvan had moved from Pooneryn to Thiruvaiaru on Thursday evening, under cover of darkness. Lt. Col. Anpumani, alias ‘Alex’, a technical expert, also moved to the same location. Both were killed in the air strikes, along with Major Mikuthan, Captain Neathaji, Lt. Aadchiveal and Lt. Vaakaikkumaran.

Who is 2IC now?
The LTTE release said that Thamilselvan had been posthumously promoted Brigadier, the highest military rank in the organization. Colonel Karuna, was the No. 2 at the time of his defection.
But, since the rank was conferred posthumously, there still remains a doubt whether Thamilselvan was actually the No. 2 at the time of his death. LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, who lost his political ideologue Anton Balasingham almost a year ago, has now lost his Political Wing Leader .
In pictures posted on the TamilNet website, a visibly moved Prabhakaran was shown paying his last respects to Thamilselvan with whom he enjoyed a close rapport. (In the background, a lady stands in mourning, but the picture caption does not identify her. It could be Thamilselvan’s wife.

Tiger point man
It is barely a week since the first anniversary Thamilselvan played the role of chief negotiator at the Geneva II talks, where he insisted on opening the A.9 Road at Muhamalai, as a condition to even talk. Talks did not take place, even after the LTTE delegation went all the way to Geneva.
Thamilselvan, who succeeded Balasingham as chief negotiator, however, died violently. Balasingham was never in the military, but Thamilselvan was very much so, until he was seriously injured in Pooneryn in 1993 and later placed in charge of the political wing. Coincidentally, he was in charge of Pooneryn at the time of his death.
Hours after news of Thamilselvan death, chief of the Tiger breakaway group ‘Col.’ Karuna was arrested in East London.
Many western diplomats, including British High Commissioners and other visiting diplomats from the United Kingdom, have done the trek to Kilinochchi to meet Thamilselvan, the political wing leader of the LTTE.
This columnist too, was in a delegation of the Editor’s Guild that visited Kilinochchi a few years back, on a fact-finding mission, during the peace process. Thamilselvan was a genial LTTE leader who fielded questions from Editors of several national newspapers, and was a master at parrying with the controversial questions.
Thamilselvan and Karuna both participated at peace talks in Oslo. During one round of peace talks, in lighter vein, Balasingham had quipped that at one stage only the two chief negotiators (G.L. Peiris included) were around, as the others had slipped out of the backdoor, on other missions.
Even after Karuna’s defection, after President Chandrika Kumaratunga took over the three ministries of Defence, Interior and Media, from Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government, Karuna was much restrained.

Thamilselvan’s near misses
So much so, when mooted that Thamilselvan be bumped off at the Katunayake airport, by a suicide mission from Karuna’s group, the President cautioned against such a move.
There were two other occasions when the military’s deep penetration units failed to get at Thamilselvan. On one occasion, they got his bodyguard, as Thamilselvan was in another vehicle in the convoy. A previous air strike aimed at Thamilselvan, also failed. He survived two serious injuries from battles in Elephant Pass and Pooneryn. So, he really was a cat with seven lives, and finally died at 40, after a life dedicated to the movement.

Political wing’s new head
Prabhakaran has declared three days of mourning, until his funeral at an unspecified location on Monday.
Though Prabhakaran visited the site of the killing and was seen paying his last respects at Thamilselvan’s coffin, the chances are that the LTTE leader may skip the funeral.
Tiger police chief, P. Nadesan, replaced Thamilselvan as Political Wing Leader of the LTTE. By making an early appointment, Prabhakaran has signaled that there is still a role to play by a political wing. Hope not a police role.

Voice of the Tiger?
Who will replace Thamilselvan as chief negotiator? The LTTE is yet to fill the vacuum created by the death of Balasingham, and there seem to be no takers as of now, for the office in London.
Whether you like it or not, the LTTE has the support of the international Tamil Diaspora in all these western countries. Of course, there is a section of Tamils, both here and abroad, who are diametrically opposed to the LTTE.

The not so necessary evil
In any case, Karuna has been labeled the bad Tamil boy in the west, and several western countries have asked the Sri Lankan government to rein him in. There is definitely a message in the arrest of Karuna.
He has been implicated by visiting UN officials, including Allan Rock, who accused even a section of the military to be working hand in glove with the Karuna faction, to conscript young Tamils.
So, it appears he received his just desserts, when arrested by immigration and emigration officials in East London, for immigration violations. He is learnt to have obtained a British visa from the High Commission in Colombo, under a bogus name.
The killing of Thamilselvan and the arrest of Karuna who has been in the UK for the past month, is too much of a coincidence, to be overlooked.

In no time after the LTTE announced that Thamilselvan was killed by an SLAF air raid, Karuna was arrested and the Home Office confirmed it. Karuna is likely to be deported to Sri Lanka and arrested on arrival at the Katunayake airport, for violating immigration-emigration laws.
So, it appears that the tit for tat has already begun. The LTTE will capitalise on it, as Thamilselvan was the contact point between the organisation and the western world.
LTTE’s military spokesman, Irasiah Ilanthiryan, has already described the aerial attack on Thamilselvan’s residence, a cowardly assassination. What he meant by residence was a bunker where thamilselvan put up.

Peace a dirty word
The LTTE is bound to use this killing to justify its fight for a separate State. It might be said that the calculated decision to bump off the political wing leader of the LTTE, was an indication that this government was not keen on talking peace and more interested in pursuing a military solution.

By the same token, it was the LTTE that first bumped off Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar and Deputy Chief of the Government’s Peace Secretariat, Keethesh Loganathan. However, the Karuna group was the first to bump off LTTE’s political leader in the East, Kaushalyan, during claymore and counter claymore attacks.
However, what precipitated the war was the assassination attempt on Army Commander, Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka and more specifically, the closure of the sluice gates at Mavil Aru.
It is futile, trying to find out who started the war, as often it is discovered that one action led to another. As for prospects of peace, it is grim.

The military is on the go and there is no stopping them. The Tigers would try to avenge this killing. Further, the Tigers would not want to negotiate from a position of weakness, and hence, would not agree to talks just now.
The Norwegian International Development Minister said that he was deeply worried about the escalation of the war and described Thamilselvan’s death as a great loss, adding that he was a contact point between the LTTE and the facilitator Norway.
On Wednesday, the Government would unveil Budget 2008. We already know the Defence budget has risen to Rs 148 billion, an increase of 20%, making clear what the policy of the Government is.

In three week’s, the nation would have the policy statement of the Tigers, when LTTE leader Prabhakaran makes his Heroes’ Day speech. On November 27, 2005, Prabhakaran said that President Mahinda Rajapaksa was a pragmatic man and that he would give him time. After the killing of his political wing leader what would Prabhakaran say?
The chances of checkmating the LTTE might be lost by this act of getting at the ‘Queen,’ as in chess parlance.

****

Army taking the fight to the LTTE

The killing of LTTE Political Wing Leader S.P. Thamilselvan will not stall military ground operations likely to continue unabated. The LTTE might not undertake any military operations in the light of an announcement of three days of mourning till the funeral on Monday.

Judging by the ground confrontations on several fronts, mainly in Muhamalai-Nagarkovil region and Mannar and Madhu, it is quite possible that a major sustained attack may be launched in one of these places.
Meanwhile, the air force is conducting raids on Tiger training camps north of Janakapura in Weli Oya and softening up the area, to possibly open up another front, to penetrate Mullaitivu. This is in addition to the aerial bombings in Mullaitivu.
At the crack of dawn, on Thursday troops from 7 VIR (Vijayabahu Infantry Regiment) using heavy weapons, attacked a line of bunkers in the Muhamalai Forward Defence. The military claimed eight Tigers were killed and several others injured in the attack. Again on Friday troops from 7 GR(Gajaba Regiment) destroyed several bunkers at Muhamali.

On the Mannar-Vavuniya main road, troops attacked the Tigers from two directions.
Troops from 18 GR captured several LTTE strongholds on the Mannar-Vavuniya road, while soldiers from 8GR attacked the remaining bunkers from another direction, amidst heavy Tiger mortar and artillery fire.
Infuriated by the offensive, the Tigers retaliated with heavy artillery and mortar fire in all directions, to prevent a possible overrun of the Vedithalthivu area.

After Tiger mortar and artillery fire ceased around noon, the security forces broke down the LTTE forward defence line and advanced about 800 metres into LTTE-controlled area.
Twenty two Tigers died during the military operation north west of Yoda Wewa (Giant Tank) in Mannar, according to MCNS. But, troops recovered eight Tiger bodies following the confrontation that lasted several hours. Fourteen more bodies were with the LTTE, according to intercepted LTTE communications, the military claimed.
The MCNS admitted that only two soldiers were killed and 12 others injured in the confrontations, despite several rounds of artillery fire.

But, the pro-LTTE website, tamilnet.com, claimed 25 soldiers killed and admitted seven Tigers died.
The military said two officers, a Quarter Master and a Major and 10 soldiers were injured during the confrontation. .
The 57 offensive Division, created to take on the Tigers and keep them engaged, has been operative for the past seven months or so, even though the command has changed and is now under Brigadier Jagath Dias.
The military, however, had a temporary setback with Brigadier Charlie Gallage commanding 58 Brigade, rushed to Colombo for medical treatment for a sudden illness.
Brigadier Shavendra Silva temporarily replaced him. Brig. Gallage has contributed immensely, leading the Commando Brigade in the latest operations. He has done yeoman service throughout this phase of ‘Eelam War IV’, where small teams of infantry and elite forces have been successfully penetrating Tiger territory.
After the eastern success, the military has been trying to breach the defences in the Wanni, West of Omanthai, without much success.

****

Four bogus Tigers demanding commission arrested

Four ‘Tigers’ had allegedly demanded from a top official of an INGO, Mercy Foundation, 5% of the Rs 10 million project to build houses in Trincomalee.
They had approached the Managing Director K.S. Sivakumar to get this commission. Sivakumar was firm that he could not part with commissions. The armed cadres then said they would accept Rs. 500,000, but Sivakumar settled for Rs. 300,000.
He had asked them to come to his place, which they agreed to. In the meantime, Sivakumar informed the Uppuweli OIC, who in turn, informed the ASP.

Meanwhile, Intelligence Officers of 22 Division of the Army were tasked to catch these ‘Tigers’.
At the appointed time, the ‘Tigers’ approached the designated place and were promptly arrested.
To the dismay of the military and police officers, they found that one of the four men was an ex-Tiger who had surrendered. The other three were still serving in the Navy, while posing off as Tigers involved in this scam
Senior military officers tried to suppress the matter but the police took charge of the case.

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