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DateLine Sunday, 21 October 2007

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Yala detachment security lapse

Not a feather in Tiger cap

Monday's unexpected LTTE attack on the Army detachment in Thalgasmankada in the Yala National Park sparked many concerns among the public and also among media circles. It provided the much needed latest tonic to make adverse comments on the security lapses in the South.

In reality killing of six soldiers initially in the LTTE attack on the Army detachment and another where a soldier was caught in a landmine explosion, possibly set by the Tiger cadres infiltrated into the National Park, and on the following day gives the impression that the Southern tip of the country, once again has been exposed to terror attacks. Of course there has been a security lapse on the part of the soldiers manning the detachment and also on the part of the officers in charge of the area. They were not prepared for such a lightning attack by the LTTE at this time.

On the part of the soldiers at the detachment, there was no need to be on constant alert as they were not guarding a detachment in the Forward Defence Lines in the Wanni or in Jaffna which are subjected to constant LTTE infiltrations.

They might have been in their usual relaxing mood once detachment came under sudden attack around 6 p.m. That was why the infiltrated Tiger cadres were able to kill six out of the seven soldiers there and injure the other.

Therefore, surely there had been a security lapse as they were not on alert when the detachment came under attack.

Apart from that they have not set the mechanisms in motion to get the information about such infiltration by the LTTE.

But can this isolated incident be taken to rule that southern security is at a risk? In reality that was not the case.

The most justifiable argument relating to this is that the LTTE has been able to locate the least alerted Army detachment to launch their desperate attack.

They have even failed to locate such a place in the Wanni, Jaffna or in the East. If they had made any such attempts in the Wanni, Jaffna or in the East there wouldn't have been any escape for them.

That was why they have selected this soft target, an isolated Army detachment in the middle of the Yala National Park, as they can easily flee from the area before reinforcements could reach the area.

If they had large numbers and were capable of launching an effective attack they could have selected a vital security installation in Wanni, Jaffna or in the East. The long search operations conducted by elite Commandos and the troops of the Sinha Regiment who were flown to the National Park so far, had not found any clue about the presence of the Tiger cadres any where inside the park.


The Army foiled a major LTTE terror plan and assassination attempt by recovering a large stock of explosives including suicide jackets from Jaffna. Acting on a lead from a resident, the Army recovered this large stock of explosives, from a house in the Kantharodai area around 10 a.m.

But they have received intelligence reports about possible Tiger cadre movement inside the park prior to the attack, especially in the Block II area between Menik Ganga and Kumbukkan Oya on the border of the Ampara district which provides safe haven for the LTTE to operate.

However, the latest intelligence reports indicated that the Tiger cadres have fled the area in small boats. Troops on duty in general area, Udapathana, about 10 km north of Yala had observed, two suspected LTTE boats sailing on Friday evening. The two boats, after they were identified as LTTE seacraft, were fired upon by troops to prevent any terrorist infiltration.

However, the terrorists aboard the two boats fled towards deep sea firing at the troops. The Navy reportedly have carried out a search operation in the sea off Panama in search of suspected boat movements in the area.

Therefore the incident cannot be described as major security lapse in the South as it made no big impact on the people in the South due to this attack. This is not a major military debacle or any setback on the part of the Security Forces as they lost no ground to the LTTE.

The effect of this attack is similar to that of a small claymore attack by the LTTE targeting a military vehicle since they have not gained any control over a territory in the South following this attack.

Whatever the criticism that rocked the south on Monday will be eye opener for the Security Forces and the public in the south as there is tendency to carry out such attacks targeting soft targets like Thalgasmankada Army detachment to show off their strength.

Therefore, precautionary steps have to be taken to stop such LTTE infiltrations to the area as it would provide safe passage for the Tiger cadres roaming in the jungles in the Eastern province following their humiliating defeat in the Eastern theatre, to move into the Southern part of the country to carry out their terror operations.

That type of security alert is necessary not only for the south but also to other parts of the country, especially to Colombo at this decisive juncture of the war. It has been revealed that the jungle patch between Kumbukkan Oya and Menik Ganga, the block II of the Yala National Park which is not open to the public, provides safer havens for the LTTE.

Therefore, Defence authorities are now contemplating on the idea of tightening the security at the Yala National Park shifting some Army training facilities to this part of the National Park. Such a move will automatically create a shield between the Eastern province and the South preventing Tiger infiltration without shifting battalions from the Wanni or in Jaffna as anticipated by the LTTE through this attack.

If Defence authorities have to deploy troops to guard Yala National Park which stretches with a land mass of over 979 square kilometres they will have to deploy almost a brigade to fulfil this task.

Shifting of training facilities to such areas is the ideal solution to face such situations. Even for the Thoppigala jungle, that is the most viable solution to prevent the LTTE to establish their jungle bases again in the East.The late Lalith Athulath mudali made such arrangement by establishing Maduru Oya Army Training School to prevent Tiger infiltration from the East to the adjoining Polonnaruwa district, and carry out massacres targeting Sinhala settlements.

If this type of attacks continue the Security Forces will have to focus their attention towards the South instead of their attempts to advance into Wanni to liberate the people entrapped in the area.

As this column highlighted last week the LTTE is making every possible attempt to stop the Security Forces from advancing into the Wanni stronghold, internationally and locally, both in political and military means. The Yala attack can be seen as militaristic approach towards their attempt as they had exhausted in their efforts of defending the FDLs in the Wanni and in Jaffna. The severe beatings they from the Security Forces in the Wanni FDLs have become unbearable for them with many of their cadres getting killed in the skirmishes.

Security Forces, in their pre-emptive operations killed nearly 100 Tiger cadres in the FDLS West of Omanthai this week alone. The most devastating battles erupted in Periyathampanai and Thampanai areas.

Troops used diversionary tactics to launch a major assault on the LTTE cadres who constantly launching attacks on the Security Force taking the cover of the Tank bund in Periyathamnai. This has brought results with Security Forces killing at least 14 Tiger cadres taking the cover of this Tank bund.

Troops also recovered seven bodies of LTTE cadres, along with five T-56 rifles and a multi purpose machine gun. Six soldiers also suffered injuries in the incident that erupted on Thursday morning.

With these developments the Security Forces are now taking the upper hand in their bid to liberate Wanni from the Tiger grip as they had done in their mission in the East. Therefore, the LTTE may resort to more violent acts in the coming weeks especially in Colombo in their desperate bid to stop military advances into their territory.

Meanwhile, the International Conference on Countering Terrorism which commenced and concluded yesterday also exposed the true nature of the LTTE by various international experts in the anti terrorism campaign.

Dr. Gerard Chailand, the former Director,of the European Centre for the Study of Conflicts who was the guest speaker at the inauguration of the conference very categorically stated no peace seems possible with Velupillai Prabhakaran as have seen from the peace process of 2002 to 2005 which was but a tactical truce.

"The Independence they (the LTTE) ask for cannot be granted, not only because no State is willing to accept such a blow to its sovereignty but also because, like the Shining Path or the Khmers Rouges, LTTE, under the leadership of V. Prabhakaran is a totalitarian movement which has transformed its groups into a killing machine", Dr. Gerard Chailand mentioned in his presentation.

"LTTE has brutally eliminated all other parties groups willing to represent the Tamil. It has assassinated all those who were willing to offer an alternative to LTTE's position. Just like V. Prabhakaran has physically eliminated in his own party those who could challenge his authority", he said.

However, he said no military solution can solve the Tamil problem alone. In other words the Dr. Chailand endorsed the stance taken by the Rajapaksa administration on the subject of LTTE terrorism which treats the LTTE terrorism and the Tamil problem separately.

Judge Jean Louis Bruguiere, Chairman of the French Anti-Terrorist Judges, in his presentation on International Response to Terrorism stated that the French Government considers an organisation like the LTTE is a terrorist organisation like any other and that its activities even in the area of logistics, have to be repressed with the same vigour as for terrorist networks operating in France.

Bruguiere who traced the manner in which international efforts at responding to terrorism has evolved over the years, said if the fight against terrorism is an inescapable requirement, "we owe it to ourselves to reinforce our international cooperation at every level, notably by adopting multilateral or bilateral conventions in the field of judicial cooperation as well as extradition." Addressing the panel on regional responses to terrorism, former Commander of the Indian Army, Gen. V. P. Malik also raised a valid point emphasizing the need to combat and defeat terrorism in all its manifestations. "Terrorist activities anywhere will stop only when their fuel runs out." Gen. Malik said in his presentation. Therefore it is high time any Sri Lankan Government get to defeat the LTTE terrorism and to solve the Tamil question by means of political negotiations.

Shanaka Jayasekera, Research Assistant, Centre for Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism in Australia also made major revelations about the deep rooted LTTE fund raising campaign by the LTTE using the Tamil Diaspora spread all over the world.

According to him the LTTE has developed the most sophisticated infrastructure for fundraising and money transfer operation in comparison to any other terrorist group.

"The intent of the LTTE is to progress towards systems that have been stable income generation capability, giving the LTTE the advantage of stability in projected incomes and procurement planning.

Revealing the fourth generation fund raising methods, Jayasekera stated that all Tamil families in Europe are being systematically registered and assigned a unique PIN number. According to him phase one European initiative commenced in Switzerland in early 2006, each family has been issued with a three page with a banner heading LTTE in Switzerland. The form has 30 questions relating to personnel information including details of blood relatives in Sri Lanka, income status, subscription to LTTE satellite television and contribution to homeland funds.

"The LTTE intends to issue each Tamil family in Europe with a unique PIN number refers to as the Tamil Eelam identity number. It is suspect that the main database for this project is located in Scandinavian country with a capability to transfer data to Kilinochchi", Jayasekera revealed in his presentation under the title Terrorist Fundraising and Money Transfer Operations. At last the entire world is now realizing the harsh truth behind the LTTE in all world fora against terrorism.

Therefore, as Foreign Affairs Minister Rohitha Bogollagama stated in his address to the inaugural sessions of the conference," One must be conscious that in taking action against the LTTE foreign governments are not merely helping Sri Lanka, but they are also acting in their self-interest, for it is well-known that the LTTE's global terror network which has links to other terrorist organizations such as United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), the Afghan Mujahideen, the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), the Maoists, Abu Sayaf, Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and to the Al-Qaeda, has the ability to contribute to copy-cat terrorism through its suicide bomb technology, acts of maritime terrorism, and nascent air strike capability".

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