‘Cool’ Cat had seven lives
International connection between Karuna’s arrest and
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
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
These clips were courtesy the Raytheon Beechcraft 200 HISAR (Hughes
Integrated Surveillance & Reconnaissance System) which flies above the
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Infuriated by the offensive, the Tigers retaliated with heavy artillery
and mortar fire in all directions, to prevent a possible overrun of the
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
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
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
Senior military officers tried to suppress the matter but the police
took charge of the case.