By Ruwan Weerakoon
The LTTE made attempts on two occasions to mount an attack
on the ‘lethal cargo warehouse’ in the Colombo harbour, but
the Western Province Police Intelligence Unit were able to
avert these attempts. Details of these aborted attempts to
attack the warehouse are revealed below. They failed not
because of the LTTE’s incompetence, but mostly due to the
solid intelligence gathered by a special unit in the Sri
Lanka Police, the Western Province Police Intelligence Unit,
(WPPIU) and public support.
Curbing terrorism activities in Colombo is mainly under
the purview of the Police department. Under them
are the Western Province Police Intelligence unit (WPPIU)
together with the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID),
the State Intelligence Services (SIS) and the Criminal
Investigation Department (CID). Together these units
apprehended 22 LTTE suicide cadres. Another 10 suicide
cadres killed themselves while being apprehended, bringing
the total to 32, senior Police officers from Police
Headquarters revealed to this columnist.
Police expand long arm of law
WPPIU unit is the brainchild of Defence Secretary
Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and comes directly under his
supervision. So was another unit which assisted in
information gathering at grassroot level. These were the
Civil Defence Committees, also mooted by the Defence
Secretary. These committees comprising civilians within
each Grama Seva Niladhari Division are affiliated to every
Police station within Colombo and also islandwide. The
civilian members comprising these committees were trained to
inspect or examine suspicious parcels or vehicles and also
to be alert about strangers or suspicious persons in their
specific areas. This setup yielded more results than
expected and helped to track down several terrorists in
Colombo as well as the outstations
Among the other main responsibilities entrusted to the
WPPIU was the safeguarding of economic or soft targets in
and around Colombo, like the Colombo port, airport and other
vital installations. Well trained Police personnel from the
WPPIU were deployed in selected Police stations in and
around Colombo, especially in Wattala, Kotahena, Modera,
Mattakkuliya, Dehiwala, Wellawatte and Bambalapitiya.
Every officer and constable was provided wide training
and taught the value of intelligence gathering and usage.
This was stressed upon and inculcated into their minds
before being posted to their stations. These units came
under the supervision of an Inspector of Police (IP). They
met almost every week and evaluated information gathered and
planned follow up action.
As I have stressed over and over again in my earlier
columns, intelligence is the most vital tool or weapon to
gain an advantage or victory against the enemy. Thus, to be
forewarned is to be forearmed.
Sri Lanka and foreign intelligence services
It is widely reported that the best intelligence unit in
the world is the USA’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
However, when we look back at the terrorist attack on New
York’s World Trade Centre building and the Pentagon at
Washington on September 11 2001, better known now as the
9/11 attack, it could be clearly seen that even the mighty
CIA failed to read the security threat in its perspective
and prevent it.
Also, in Iraq and Afghanistan, suicide bombers are exploding
themselves almost every week, killing military personnel as
well as civilians. Though the CIA is in possession of the
most sophisticated methodologies and hi-tech equipment, it
is still to find ways of preventing these suicide bombers
from carrying out their attacks. The USA and UK can learn
lessons from Sri Lanka officers on how to prevent suicide
bombers and their handlers from infiltrating civilian areas,
because Sri Lanka intelligence officers have proved their
talent and capability in preventing attacks that would have
crippled both the economy and the war effort.
For even though hi-tech and gadgetry is woefully lacking in
this country, the Sri Lankan intelligence officers here have
successfully overcome this shortcoming with their
exceptional skills and capabilities, and most importantly
their dedication and loyalty.
A senior Police officer told this columnist that
whenever an LTTE suicide cadre is about to be arrested, he
or she always tries to give a cover story to give the Police
or security forces the slip. But the Police, aware of this
modus operandi made sure that none of the LTTE operatives
would have a chance to slip their net.
Tigers’ intelligence in the city
During the beginning of 2006, the LTTE’s intelligence
wing in Colombo was directly under Charles. After Charles
was killed in Mannar by the Sri Lanka Army’s Long Range
Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP), the responsibility was taken
over by the LTTE’s Madhawan.
The same year, the Western Province Police Intelligence
unit (WPPIU) was able to nab a Tiger cadre by the name of
Mayuran who had posed as a mango seller in Colombo. Later
investigations revealed that Mayuran was an LTTE ‘handler’
and had directly reported to a person under intelligence
leader Madhawan who lived in the Wanni. Under interrogation
he had revealed that there were 12 LTTE cadres already in
Colombo at that time. He also stated that six among them
possessed the CDS licenses which permit them to work on
board ships. The objective of these six was to obtain
employment on board ships sailing between Colombo and Jaffna
or Trincomalee. While on board, they were to gather
information and pass them on to the LTTE cadres responsible.
Their other target apart from the harbour was the Shell gas
storage facility at Kerawalapitiya.
The LTTE handler Mayuran lived in Wattala and his
residence was being often used as a meeting place by the
other Tiger cadres based in Colombo. When this became known
to the WPPIU, they planned to nab several Tigers at one go.
A sergeant and a Police constable were dispatched on the
mission to take Mayuran into custody. When these two
officers arrived at Mayuran’s residence, they found only his
wife was at home. Since their return without Mayuran may
arouse his suspicions, they decided to stay at the LTTE
handler’s house till his return. They gave strict
instructions to Mayuran’s wife to carry on with her daily
chores, of course under their eagle eyes, and act normal.
She did this without any more urging.
However, these two Police officials had to stay in
Mayuran’s house for the whole of four days until he
returned. Mayuran too was blissfully unaware of his
impending arrest as he arrived home. Instead of a warm
greeting by his wife, he only found a handcuff clamped
around his wrists. Thereafter, the Police officers forced
Mayuran to call his other accomplices for a meeting at his
residence. He did so and they too were arrested on arrival.
Similarly, the WPPIU was able to nab two LTTE cadres from
Modera and six more from the Kotahena area.
Pottu eyes lethal cargo in harbour
In January 2009, the LTTE’s intelligence wing leader
Pottu Amman had conveyed a special message to another Tiger
operative in Colombo, Vinayagam. Pottu Amman had told
Vinayagam that their leader had said that if they could
target and destroy the vital lethal cargo being unloaded by
the Sri Lanka Army at the storage facility in the Colombo
harbour, the war could be delayed by at least another three
to four months. The lethal cargo section is the location in
the Colombo harbour where the armed forces unload and store
their ammunition until it is transported elsewhere. Three to
four months is the rough time frame it takes to replace a
fresh cargo of ammunition.
Following this message, Vinayagam set up a group of 19
cadres, which included six Black Tigers or suicide cadres.
This group was led by another Tiger cadre by the name of
Jaya. But Jaya had in his possession a National Identity
Card (NIC) which gave his name as Saman Albert Nissanka from
Norwood. He was very fluent in Sinhalese and had not roused
any suspicions of having had Tiger connections.
Jaya trapped in own snare
When Jaya was ultimately arrested by the WPPIU, he had
asked the intelligence officers why they were arresting an
innocent Sinhalese. However the sleuths had checked the
authenticity of his NIC with the Department for the
Registration of Persons under whose purview the issuing of
NIC come under. The Department had confirmed that the NIC
was genuine. However, the WPPIU had other ideas about Jaya.
They sought the assistance of the Norwood Police Station to
trace the whereabouts of Saman Albert Nissanka of Norwood.
Strangely, the Norwood Police after acceding to the request
informed the WPPIU that they had successfully traced Saman
Albert Nissanka and that he was in their custody. This
confirmed the WPPIU’s suspicions. So they had this real
Saman Albert Nissanka of Norwood brought down to Colombo and
confronted the impostor.
This found Jaya trapped in his own snare. He knew that
the game was up and started to spill the beans to the WPPIU
officers. This led the sleuths to arrest the rest of the 19
member group mentioned above. On further information
elicited from them, Police were able to recover a van with
325 kilogrames of C4 explosives, two Rocket Propelled
Grenades (RPGs), four T-56 weapons and a grenade launcher
with 40 rounds of ammunition.
Plan of the 19 Tigers
Further interrogations laid bare the plan to attack the
lethal cargo storage at the Colombo harbour. The plan,
according to the arrested Tiger cadres was as follows: 13
persons out of the 19 member group were to be deployed for
surveillance and transport. Nine Black Tigers were to travel
by van which would be laden with the explosives. When they
approach the barrier manned by the Sri Lanka Navy near the
De Saram Gate of the harbour, one Tiger suicide cadre
alights from the stopped van and approaches the SL Navy
sentries manning the gate. When he arrives close enough to
cause maximum damage, he explodes his bomb concealed on his
body. During the commotion following this initial explosion,
the rest in the van would rush into the harbour premises
firing their T-56 weapons and launching their grenades. The
van would speed to the lethal cargo store and ram against it
to trigger the C4 explosives concealed within. While the
ammunition in the store would explode and cause untold
damage, the Tiger cadres would board or attack the several
ships anchored within the harbour.
Apart from delaying the ongoing war, this calamity, if it
had been successful, would have forced the international
shipping authorities to name the Colombo harbour as a very
high risk destination. This would surely have struck a heavy
blow to the local shipping industry and paralysed the
Thus, the WPPIU’s diligence and timely arrests prevented
this unimaginable destruction of an economic target within
The Dehiwala couple and their target
In 2007, two persons, a male and a female arrived at the
Dehiwala Police Station. They identified themselves as
Shashi and Stella who had married recently. Since they were
to live in Dehiwala, they had arrived to register their
names with the area Police station.
Stella was a very pretty woman. While the registration
process with all its paper work was being done, the police
constable handling it had found that Stella was going out of
her way to become friendly with him. Contrary to the normal
situation where a pretty female could sway the attention and
heart of a young man, this Police officer had reacted in a
different way. Instead of his desires, his suspicions had
been aroused. Immediately, without arousing the suspicions
of the couple Stella and Shashi, the constable had informed
the Officer in Charge (OIC) about his hunch. The OIC in turn
had acted swiftly and detained the couple for questioning.
A thorough interrogation had bared another dastardly plot
to assassinate another VVIP. Stella, in fact was a Black
Tiger suicide cadre and Shashi (Handler) was her accomplice.
Her target was the former LTTE breakaway and Eastern
commander Karuna Amman alias Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan
who was by then supportive of President Mahinda Rajapaksa
and the security forces.
However, when Stella and Shashi were being questioned at
length, an Inspector of Police (IP) attached to the Dehiwala
Police, IP Ajmar who had earlier been the Maligawatte Police
OIC had attempted to get them released saying they were
innocent Tamils. This too had aroused the suspicions of the
Dehiwala OIC and he had informed the WPPIU which placed IP
Ajmar under surveillance immediately.
Traitor among the Police
Careful 24 hour surveillance from the WPPIU had laid bare
another secret. Investigations had revealed that IP Ajmar
had had direct links with the LTTE’s Colombo intelligence
leader Charles. He was tasked by the Tigers to gather
information on soft targets in the city and pass them on to
Further investigations had revealed more. As a Crime OIC
of the Maligawatte Police, Ajmar had arranged for an LTTE
operative to set up a claymore mine in an area frequented by
a high ranking Police officer. However, when this Police
officer was driving by, even though the Tiger operative had
pressed the button of the remote controller to detonate the
mine, it had failed to explode. Following this, IP Ajmar had
pretended to have detected the unexploded mine laid to
target the Police high ranker. This so called act of bravery
had earned Ajmar a reward from none other than the Inspector
General of Police (IGP).
Attempted assassination bid on President
Again in 2008, the LTTE had attempted to assassinate
President Mahinda Rajapaksa in Colombo. Here too, Charles
was being assisted by IP Ajmar. When this plot too was
bared, 16 Tiger cadres including a male suicide bomber were
arrested. The plan was for IP Ajmar to provide the suicide
bomber with a Police uniform, which he would wear with the
explosives concealed within. IP Ajmar was to transport her
to the location where Police guard would be provided on both
sides of the road taken by the President. He would stand on
the roadside and once the President approached, he would
rush towards him and explode himself. But Ajmar and the
Tiger cadres were arrested by the Western Province
Intelligence unit before they could carry out their
It came to light later that IP Ajmar had been paid a sum of
Rs. 40,000 per month by the LTTE and he was also given a
Dolphin van for his use. Currently Ajmar is in Police
custody and further Investigations are continuing.
All these LTTE operatives in Colombo communicated with
their leaders via e-mail. They had created a single URL
address and a common password. They also used a single phone
for this mission and changed its SIM card every now and
then. Details of this were revealed in an earlier column.
Though most of these Tiger operatives are in custody now,
the WPPIU is yet to lower its guard. The Unit is still
hunting for Tiger cadres who they might have missed.
The Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) is another
unique branch of the Sri Lanka Police which has succeeded in
counter-terrorism. They have assisted and also arrested most
Tiger operatives including suicide bombers, handlers and
others. While the units’ dedication to service is
exceptionally high, their method of operation too is quite
unique. (This column has revealed more about the unit
earlier). This Unit was able to expose the identity of the
highest ranking Police officer who had links with the LTTE-
Superintendent of Police (SP) Lakshman Cooray. Even today,
the eagle eye of the TID is still hovering over the city and
The State Intelligence Service (SIS) is another affiliate
of the Sri Lanka Police. This service not only operates
locally but also internationally, sometimes in tandem with
foreign intelligence services. Theirs is an extremely covert
operation and this unit was responsible for the arrest of
Lt. Colonel Ranjith Perera for his ties with the LTTE. Even
now, this service is continuously monitoring suspected
terrorist movements within and off the shores of Sri Lanka.
Before and during the final battles in the North, there
were several bomb explosions within and outside Colombo.
Almost all these explosions had been carried out by Tiger
operatives directly under the supervision of LTTE’s Kapil
Amman. However, almost all those behind these explosions
have been successfully arrested.
A senior Police officer told this columnist, “Though the war
has ended the TID, WPPIU, SIS and the Police are still on
the lookout for terrorist suspects and concealed materials.”
Due to the dedication and commitment of people in these
intelligence units, the backbone of the Tigers in and around
the Western Province is almost broken. Sans a visible and
effective leadership, the remaining cadres, if any, may be
dormant. The Eelamist threat cannot be completely ruled out
as over. With the Tamil Diaspora still active
internationally, the possibility of the threat rearing its
ugly head still exists. Trained Tiger cadres too may be
still moving around among them.
The billons in dollars accumulated by the Tiger terrorist
outfit may be used to discredit Sri Lanka in the
international arena. This can be clearly seen in the recent
attempts by Channel 4 to tarnish the image of Sri Lanka.
This vast wealth could be used by the remaining LTTE
sympathisers to lobby foreign diplomats and politicians.
Hence, with these potential threats not completely out of
the way, Sri Lanka’s intelligence apparatus cannot and will
not let its guard down, senior intelligence officers