INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR--- PAPER NO.499
"The LTTE must be trying hard for mounting kamikazee type attacks on military---particularly Air Force ---targets in Colombo similar to itsraid on the SLAF base in Anuradhapura. The fact that it has not succeeded so far would indicate that the physical security for suchestablishments is strong and that the LTTE is facing shortages of the required materials for such attacks. One notices that the LTTE hasnot yet used all the weapons in its arsenal. It has apparently retained for itself an element of ultimate surprise."
---- Extract from my comments of January 1,2009, in response to a query from a Sinhalese journalist.
According to web accounts of pro-LTTE websites, two so-called Black Air Tigers of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) carried outkamikazee style suicide 'dives" into the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) Headquarters on the Slave Island in Colombo and into the SLAF base atKatunayaka between 9-20 and 9-45 PM on February 20,2009, killing two persons and injuring 51 others. The pro-LTTE web site Tamilnet hasreleased a photograph of the two so-called kamikazee pilots----- Col. Roopan and Lt. Col. Siriththiran---- with Velupillai Prabakaran beforethey embarked on their kamikazee mission. According to the LTTE version, the maximum number of casualties was in the Slave Island---twokilled and 45 injured. Only six were injured in the attack on the SLAF establishment at Katunayake.
2. There are no reports of either of the aircraft involved in the mission having carried explosives in order to add to the destruction effect.Whatever damage was caused was by the remaining fuel in the aircraft---- which could not have been much--- and the resulting fire. Theaircraft, which had been tasked to crash into the SLAF headquarters, actually crashed into one of the top floors of a building located in frontof the SLAF headquarters building in which the offices of the Inland Revenue Department of the Government are located. It is evident fromavailable details that heavy anti-airaft fire from the SLAF building made it difficult for the pilot to crash into the building. He, therefore,crashed his plane into the building of the Inland Revenue Department.
3. While pro-LTTE web sites have projected the crashing of a second aircraft into the SLAF base in Katunayake also as a kamikazee styleattack, the Government's version that the plane was actually shot down by anti-aircraft fire from the ground before it could reach itsintended target carries greater credibility.
4. During the current offensive in the North, the advancing Sri Lankan Armed Forces could not lay hand on the remaining LTTE arsenal atKilinochchi. The LTTE's withdrawal from Kilinochchi was pre-planned and orderly. Before the Army captured it, the LTTE managed to removefrom Kilinochchi everything that it had accumulated there, including not only its arsenal, but also the electrical and other fittings in itsoffices.
5. The LTTE's subsequent withdrawal from Mullaithivu was less orderly. It did not have the time to remove the fittings. While it managed toshift most of its arsenal, it could not move some heavy items such as artillery pieces and boats under construction. These fell into the handsof the army.
6. It managed to move well in time its aircraft holdings and its reserve of aviation fuel. Though the Army claimed to have captured from thewithdrawing LTTE all but one of the air strips, which it was suspected to be using, it could not lay hand on the aircraft and the fuel reserve.The assumption was that the area under the effective control of the LTTE having been reduced to less than 100 sq.kms, it would no longerbe able to assemble the aircraft and send them on an offensive mission without its preparations for doing so being detected by the ArmedForces. The Armed Forces must now be having their electronic intelligence (ELINT) collecting stations at Kilinochchi and Mullaithivu. If theywere functioning satisfactorily, the LTTE pilots should not have been able to assemble their planes, take off and reach Colombo.
7. The fact that they were able to do so would indicate that the ELINT capability of the SLAF is poor or that the Black Air Tigers had takenoff from a place not within the ELINT range of the SLAF stations. Such a place could be in one of the uninhabited islands in the seasbetween Sri Lanka and the Maldives group.
8. Many of the analyses on what are the options available to Prabakaran and the LTTE if and when the Army ejects the LTTE from theshrinking territory under its control have been focussing on the possibility of Prabakaran and his officers shifting to some place in S-E-Asiaor in South Africa. Even if individual leaders and officers manage to sneak in there, they would not be able to shift their remaining arms andammunition, planes, artillery pieces and other equipment there.
9. For the LTTE to be able to stage a come-back one day, it needs a beach-head out of the reach of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces where itcan re-group, re-train and re-plan and wait for an opportunity to strike back from the beach-head. The jungles in the Wanni area couldprovide such a beach-head for a small number of men with light arms and ammunition. They cannot provide a beach-head for planes andartillery units. Only an uninhabited island out of the reach of the SLAF can.
10. If one presumes for analysis sake that the LTTE planes that attacked the SLAF set-ups in Colombo must have come from an uninhabitedisland, the question would arise whether the limited fuel they would have carried could have helped them to reach up to Colombo. Since itwas a kamikazee mission, they would not have needed fuel for a return journey.
11. Whatever be the fact as established ultimately, it is important that all the uninhabited islands in the Maldives area and in theLakshadeep ( Laccadives and Minicoy) area of India are kept under effective watch to prevent the LTTE from setting up a beach-head onany of them. (21-2-09)
( The writrer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For TopicalStudies, Chennai E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org )