@

 
   
   
   
   
   
HOME
NEWS  
NEWS FEATURES  
INTERVIEWS  
POLITICAL COLUMN  
THIS IS MY NATION  
MILITARY MATTERS  
EDITORIAL  
SPORTS  
CARTOON  
BUSINESS  
EYE - FEATURES  
LETTERS  
EVENTS  
SOUL - YOUTH MAG  
KIDS - NATION  
ENTERTAINMENT  
NATION WORLD  
 
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

 

 

Military Matters


Pottu Amman: Patient but ruthless Tiger

Untold story of LTTE Intelligence Leader and LTTE network

 Pottu Amman was the most trustworthy person for Prabhakaran and he was the only Tiger leader who could carry his personal weapon while meeting the Tiger chief. He was responsible for collecting intelligence from across the island and especially Colombo and feeding the information to Prabhakaran to plan further actions or mount operations

By Ruwan Weerakoon
When there is a conflict within a country or wars are fought between countries, intelligence gathering plays an extremely vital role in the process. It helps to defeat or take the upper hand against the enemy.
Likewise, during the near thirty-year conflict in Sri Lanka, one of the main reasons for the rise of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to one of the most ruthless and powerful terrorist outfits in the world, may have been its solid intelligence network. Because of LTTE intelligence network, they were able to conduct one of the highest numbers of suicide bombings in the world. However during the latter part of the conflict, their suicide handlers, intelligence cadres, and suicide bombers were arrested by Sri Lanka military intelligence, SIS and TID which has proved that Sri Lanka’s intelligence officers are of world class standards.

Patience vital for intelligence

The LTTE’s intelligence wing leader was Pottu Amman. His real name was Shanmugalingam Sivashankaran. His unit was the Tiger Organisation Security Intelligence Service (TOSIS) and he was also the head of the dreaded Black Tiger squad. A publicity shy person, he was rarely seen in public and was known mostly by his nom de guerre rather than by his real name. He also stood indicted by the Indian government’s Jain Commission for involvement in the assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Shanmugalingam Sivashankaran is said to have received training in India after he joined the LTTE somewhere in 1981 along with Soosai. He was also said to have been the head of a coastal camp at Vedaranyam in Tamil Nadu, from where he was kidnapped by rival PLOTE cadres during intermittent clashes among rival groups, and later freed in 1985.

Known for his military expertise, Pottu Amman then rose to be the second highest in command of the Tiger outfit, and only second to its leader V. Prabhakaran. He was seen as the brain behind most of the LTTE’s covert and successful military operations. He was also known to be a hardliner favouring an independent Tamil nation of Eelam.

Battles and question mark over Pottu’s death

However, during and after the final battles in May this year near the Nanthikadal lagoon, there were rumours that Pottu Amman had been taken into custody by the military and was under interrogation. But a high profile intelligence officer confirmed that Pottu Amman is no more.
According to this officer, Pottu Amman’s intelligence ‘registrar’ Shashi Master – the person who kept records for the unit – and who had been with Pottu Amman during his final stand, had confirmed that Pottu Amman was no more.

Shashi Master was wounded during the battle and was taken into custody by the Sri Lankan security forces. According to him, on May 18 at around 3.30 a.m. LTTE cadres broke through the Sri Lanka Army defences at Vellamullivaikkal and dashed towards the Nanthikadal Lagoon, to escape to Puthukudiyiruppu jungle.

But the security forces had got wind of the impending attempt and the Army commandos and Special Forces had mounted an unexpected attack on the group. Pottu Amman was at the time accompanied by his wife and son Pathiban as well, according to Shashi Master. During the battle, his son Pathiban was shot dead and Pottu Amman too received gunshot injuries to his right arm above the elbow. His wife who saw their son dead and her husband injured had bit on her cyanide capsule to commit suicide. As soon as Pottu Amman had seen his wife biting her cyanide capsule, and knowing that she would suffer for at least half an hour, he had pulled out his personal weapon and with the greatest difficulty had shot his wife dead.

Following this, according to Shashi Master, Pottu Amman too had bit his cyanide capsule and submerged his head in the muddy waters of the lagoon. After the battles, when the Sri Lanka Army conducted search and mop up operations, they found several decomposed bodies in the area which were beyond recognition.

Cyanide - in medical terms

Cyanide is a substance that once released into the blood stream will react with cellular oxidation. That is inside the cell it produces its own oxygen and energy by a process called oxidation. For this process it needs action of enzyme called cytochrome oxidase. Cyanide binds to this enzyme and stops the cellular oxidation process and thereby killing the subject within minutes.

Once the body drowns, the decomposition accelerates. This is called putrefaction in medical terms. In warm weather this will happen at a faster rate. In a lagoon filled with warm water, animals and injuries, purification makes the bodies almost unrecognisable. During the putrefaction flesh and soft tissue get decomposed quickly and later the hard tissues are affected.

Rise of Pottu Amman

Shanmugalingam Sivashankaran alias Pottu Amman was not from the first batch of the LTTE along with V. Prabhakaran, as widely believed. In fact, he was from the second batch and was initially trained at Madras in India. During the aftermath of the July 1983 disturbances, several fledgling terrorist groups including PLOT, TELO, EPRLF etc were secretly trained by the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) in India. But Prabhakaran was reluctant to send any of his LTTE cadres for training in India. The reason behind this move is believed to be Prabhakaran’s distrust of the Indian authorities.

However, Anton Balasingham, who later became the LTTE’s theoretician and ‘ambassador’ along with his wife Adele had convinced Prabhakaran of the advantages of obtaining training from the Indian authorities while the offer was on. The Tiger chief had agreed. But still distrustful, he had directed all cadres to hide their real identities so as not to allow Indian authorities to identify or trace them at a future date.

Beginning of LTTE intelligence

When the Kao Group of RAW was thus training the Tiger cadres, they impressed upon the group the need for a good intelligence unit. When they had agreed, RAW Third Unit had picked up Pottu Amman and five others and directed them to a yet unidentified third party for intelligence training.

During this training, Pottu Amman is said to have gone under another name as ‘Kumaran’. Even RAW was not aware of the fact that Pottu Amman was the same Kumaran who was being trained. Later they had realised the identity after comparing photographs in year 2003 during the time the Cease Fire Agreement was in place.

Training manuals

Though the LTTE cadres were being trained by India, Prabhakaran knew that they would not impart 100 per cent of the intelligence know-how to them. So, deciding on a better course of action, he requested Anton and Adele Balasingham, as well as a person by the name Guru who lived in the USA, Shanthan who lived in Israel and Selvam from the UK to explore the possibilities of obtaining intelligence manuals and books from different countries. This they willingly did. All manuals and books were translated into Tamil.

The manuals from the CIA, FBI, Mossad etc were read and translated into Tamil. One peculiar translation was the book “Oh Jerusalem!” by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre. The authors of ‘Oh Jerusalem’, (who also wrote ‘Is Paris Burning?’ among others) spent some five years and conducted thousands of interviews to write this book on the conflict that has taken so many lives and profoundly affected so many people.

The book begins with the withdrawal of the English military from Jerusalem under General Allenby as they finished their thirty-year mandate begun in 1917 and the Balfour Declaration, promising a Jewish National Homeland.

The Arabs were resentful at what they felt to be an effort to seize the land they believed theirs in the name of a crime they had not committed - the persecution of the Jews in the Christian West; driven to disaster by incompetent politicians; sowing the world the seeds of even more tragedy in their refugee camps. The history of this region and the countries surrounding it, and therefore many of the conflicts, as well as the stories of such familiar people as Golda Meir and David Ben-Gurion and others, are included to give an understanding of the politics surrounding the Six Day War as well.

The book is not just a narrative of history, but a fascinating story, based on interviews with public figures as well as many people who would never ordinarily be newsworthy. Descriptions of the refugee camps for Palestinians on the West Bank are unimaginable to most. This book is also an important and informative work on the clever intelligence network and beginning of a powerful country Israel, amidst arch rivals.
Probably the LTTE leaders believed they too could rise as an independent state in the future and use the translation of this publication as their handbook.

Intelligence network

After the RAW training and availability of manuals, the LTTE built up a vast and solid intelligence network, which at a latter stage was even able to infiltrate the state security establishments.
Pottu Amman was the most trustworthy person for Prabhakaran and he was the only Tiger leader who could carry his personal weapon while meeting the Tiger chief. He was responsible for collecting intelligence from across the island and especially Colombo and feeding the information to Prabhakaran to plan further actions or mount operations.

Within the Tiger intelligence unit, Pottu Amman was the leader. Kapil Amman was his deputy while Charles, who was killed by the Sri Lanka Army Special Forces in Mannar, was the military intelligence leader. The others involved were Vinayagam, Dhroner, Keerthi, Niroshan, Muththappan, Gnanavel Master, Manimekala (a female cadre) Anbu Master, Ratnam Master and Birandan Master among others.

During the final battles this year, Muththappan, Dhroner, Gnanavel Master and Ratnam Master supervised by Charles had been tasked with monitoring the entire LTTE intelligence network within Colombo on a rotating basis.

LTTE military intelligence wing leader Charles is said to have masterminded the attacks on the Bandaranaike International Airport in 2001 where several passenger craft were destroyed and the airport was under siege for several hours.
Muththappan is said to be the mastermind behind the attack on the Anuradhapura Sri Lanka Air Force base last year.

Intelligence power countered

Though the LTTE had built up a strong intelligence network, the State Defence establishments built up and improved a better network which ultimately not only countered it but also defeated it at its own game. The government intelligence services comprising the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI), State Intelligence Services (SIS) and the Terrorist Investigations Division of the Police (TID) carefully analysed the modus operandi of the Tiger outfit, and began countering it and carrying counter-intelligence operations. In several instances, LTTE operatives were totally unaware that the friends they were associating with were in fact government intelligence operatives.

Through their diligence and sacrifice, the security forces were able to recover suicide kits, explosives and weapons concealed in and around Colombo and suicide cadres and hardcore Tiger operatives in the city and suburbs.

Another surprise for the Tigers was that they did not possess prior information that the Sri Lankan forces were to open up seven fronts to mount the final assault on the LTTE in the North. And when this happened, they were totally surprised, according to information gathered so far. This made the Tiger top rungers consider Pottu Amman, Keerthi and Kapil Amman as total failures under pressure.

Among their successful missions, there were only the assassination of former Highways Minister Jeyaraj Fernendopulle and the Anuradhapura Air Force base attack. The attack on the radar station within the Vanni Security Forces Headquarters was a total failure, as were the assassination attempts on President Mahinda Rajapaksa, his brother Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the then Army Commander Lt. General Sarath Fonseka (the incumbent Chief of Defence Staff and General).

Female suicide bombers

The Black Tigers or ‘Karum Pulihal’ including the suicide cadres came directly under Pottu Amman. The female suicide bombers were trained by Manimekala while Anbu Master trained the male cadres. For mounting large scale attacks on economic or security targets, like the ones on the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) and the SLAF base, the LTTE sent a mixed group of males and females.

And it is said that the LTTE took at least seven years to gather accurate information on the BIA. Once such information is received, Anbu Master turns out scaled models of the area or installation to be targeted. Once this is done, Ratnam Master, Kapil Amman and Muththappan train the selected cadres using the models. They rotate the training schedule, it was said. During this training, the group is forbidden from exchanging personal trivialities and is ordered to discuss only matters relating to the task.

Once training is complete and the group embarks on the selected operation, Pottu Amman meets them personally and they are offered the rare opportunity of meeting LTTE chief V. Prabhakaran to pose for a group photograph.
Niroshan, an expert in videography was responsible for training the cadres on handling video equipment and also on how to avoid detection by the security forces and also how to escape from difficult situations. Video footages are transmitted to Prabhakaran whenever an attack was in progress or completed.

Dormant seeds

Now Pottu Amman is dead. So are Ratnam Master, Dhroner, Keerthi, Niroshan, Manimekala, Anbu Master, Gnanavel Master and Muththappan. However, well informed intelligence sources say that Vinayagam Master had fled via sea or air and is now in India. Fortunately, Pottu Amman is dead. For, if he was alive, he would have definitely taken over from Prabhakaran. This would have been a distinct possibility as Shanmugalingam Sivashankaran a.k.a Pottu Amman, was said to be a patient man - patiently waiting to grab an opportunity and take maximum advantage of it. Also, he was said to be a ruthless leader, never hesitating to put into quick action whatever decision he took. He would have proved far more menacing than Velupillai Prabhakaran. But now, both are dead.

However, there are still dormant seeds sowed by the LTTE in the North and elsewhere. This could be confirmed by the arrest recently of three female suicide cadres at Poonthottam in Vavuniya. Without the leadership, these dormant cadres cannot or will not attempt much. So it is the duty of the security forces, police and even the public to always be on their guard. This has to be done to ensure that a similar organisation does not raise its head on Sri Lankan soil or elsewhere.