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|LIBERATION TIGERS OF TAMIL EELAM (LTTE) INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION AND OPERATIONS|
|A PRELIMINARY ANALYSIS|
|The LTTE represent a particularly violent manifestation of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. The group threatens not only the domestic stability of Sri Lanka and India but also the security of the international system as a whole. LTTE operations are global, they necessarily require a global response. To narrowly view the group’s activities within the context of a single state will provide a skewed, partial analysis that will be detrimental not only to Sri Lanka but also the international community in general. By permitting the LTTE to open offices and establish representation, Western countries have unwittingly blessed the group’s political and military agenda. LTTE propaganda and fundraising activities conducted in Europe, Australasia, South Africa and Canada have proved vital to the Tigers’ ongoing terrorist and guerrilla campaign in Sri Lanka.|
|© CANADIAN SECURITY INTELLIGENCE SERVICE (CSIS)|
|March 17, 2000 / COMMENTARY No. 77|
LIBERATION TIGERS OF TAMIL EELAM’S (LTTE) INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION AND OPERATIONS
A PRELIMINARY ANALYSIS
The author Peter Chalk is a professor at Queensland University in Australia. Considered to be an authority on South-East Asian security issues, Professor Chalk works for the RAND Corporation in Washington.
Disclaimer: Publication of an article in the COMMENTARY series does not imply CSIS authentication of the information nor CSIS endorsement of the author’s views.
On 23 May 1997, a Greek-registered freighter named Stillus Limassul left the Mozambican port of Beria for Sri Lanka carrying 32,400 81mm mortar bombs intended for that country’s army. The US$3 million arms deal had been arranged between officials of the Sri Lankan Defence Ministry and the government-owned, Chinese-built Zimbabwe Defence Industries (ZDI) and shipped by train to Beria. The Sri Lankan military never received the munitions. On 11 July 1997, a fax was sent to the US embassy in Colombo stating:
“We, the Tamil Tigers, inform you by the present that on 11 July 1997 we have hijacked a vessel carrying arms destined for Colombo. We know that the manufacturer and the supplier of the mortar bombs is ZDI from Harare. The cargo (has been) confiscated. We make known and warn that we will take action against all persons participating in the supply of military equipment used against the legitimate rights of Tamil people and we will severely punish those concerned.”(1)
Subsequent investigations revealed, however, that the Stillus Limassul was not included in Lloyds international shipping registry but was, in fact, owned by the LTTE itself. Further inquiries uncovered a paper trail that led to Ben Tsoi, an Israeli arms subcontractor who had arranged the mortar deal and apparently had been bribed by the Tigers to let one of their own freighters pick up the consignment. It is believed that Tsoi’s company, L.B.J. Military Supplies, had persuaded ZDI to agree to the “sting” by providing false information to Colombo confirming that the shipment had been loaded, as scheduled, at the Mozambican port of Beira on 21 May 1997.(2) Apparently, L.B.J Military Supplies then informed the Sri Lankan Government that the munitions were en route via Walvis Bay and Madagascar. By the time Colombo learned the full extent of what had happened, the mortars had been off-loaded and transshipped via smaller vessels to LTTE jungle bases off the Mullaitivu coast. A month later, the weapons were being used by the Tigers with devastating effect in the continuing battle for control of the A9 highway in northern Sri Lanka.(3)
The ZDI incident graphically demonstrates the global reach of the LTTE, widely recognized to be one of the most proficient and dangerous guerrilla/terrorist groups in the world. In large part, this reputation is owed to the extremely sophisticated international network that has been built by the organization to sustain its 26 year-long struggle against the Colombo Government for the creation of an independent state of Tamil Eelam.(4)
The purpose of this Commentary is to analyze the scope and dimension of this transnational support infrastructure. The document will offer insights into the modus operandi of the LTTE international network, the main personalities and front organizations behind it, and the various ways in which it facilitates the LTTE guerilla and terrorist campaign in north-eastern Sri Lanka.
LTTE EXTERNAL ACTIVITIES
The Tamil Tigers are organized along a two-tier structure: a military wing that is reminiscent of many professional armies; and a subordinate political wing. Overseeing both is a Central Governing Committee. Headed by the LTTE supreme leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, this body has the responsibility for directing and controlling several specific subdivisions, including:
Also included in the Central Governing Committee is an International Secretariat. Headed by V. Manoharan,(5) it is this body that essentially has the responsibility for ensuring the smooth running of the LTTE global network, although different sections of the structure are run by specific leaders expert in that particular field.
Broadly speaking, LTTE external activities can be subdivided into three main areas: publicity and propaganda; fundraising; arms procurement and shipping. While the activities of these various operations invariably overlap, for the most part each section acts autonomously.(6)
Publicity and Propaganda
The publicity and propaganda activities of the LTTE are run by V. Manoharan. Operating from a small office located abroad, his main aim is to increase international political support for the Tamil cause by preaching a tireless threefold message:
There can be no peace in Sri Lanka until the Tamils, led by the LTTE, are granted their own homeland.(7)
Manoharan heads a quasi-diplomatic LTTE organization that, as of May 1998, was thought to be composed of offices and cells located in at least 54 countries.(8) The largest and most important centres are located in leading western states with large Tamil expatriate communities, most notably the UK, France, Germany, Switzerland, Canada and Australia. In addition to these states, the LTTE are also known to be represented in countries as far-flung as Cambodia, Burma, South Africa and Botswana.(9)
Most LTTE international propaganda tends to be conducted through politically sympathetic pressure groups and media units, the activities of which are coordinated through overarching umbrella front organizations. The most active bodies in this regard include the Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations; the Swiss Federation of Tamil Associations; the French Federation of Tamil Associations; the Federation of Associations of Canadian Tamils; the Illankai Tamil Sangam in the US; the Tamil Coordinating Committee in Norway; and the International Federation of Tamils in the UK.
The essential objective of this global structure is to harness political and economic support for the LTTE and its stated aim of creating a separate Tamil state of Tamil Eelam in northeastern Sri Lanka. While most efforts are directed towards particular Tamil diasporas, the LTTE is also known to have lobbied politicians and human-rights activists.(10)
The LTTE international propaganda war is conducted at an extremely sophisticated level and far more so than any counter-campaign that the Colombo Government has, hitherto, been able to organize.(11) “Diplomatic” missions receive daily faxes detailing selective battlefield reports transmitted directly from Sri Lanka via satellite phone links. The group also puts out graphic videos, pamphlets and calendars showing, in gut-churning detail, the results of government air and military strikes against LTTE strongholds.(12) In addition, considerable use is made of the Internet as a communications tool. The group has established several well-run Web sites with “hot links” and other “jump-off points” that are networked to internationally renowned humanitarian and development agencies.(13)
“Peace” is a banner under which the LTTE continuously campaigns internationally. The slogan has been used effectively to attract several non-governmental organizations to side with the LTTE struggle in Sri Lanka. Prominent examples include the Canadian Relief Organization for Peace in Sri Lanka;(14) the International Educational Development Inc. (IED);(15) the World Council of Churches; the Australian Human Rights Foundation; the International Human Rights Group; the International Federation of Journalists; Pax Romana; the International Peace Bureau; the International Human Rights Law Group; and the Robert F Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights.(16) Gaining the support of such groups by playing the “peace card” has been extremely beneficial to the LTTE. By publicly demonstrating the support the group has received from prominent NGOs around the world, the LTTE believes it has succeeded in internationalizing their cause and legitimizing the claim for an independent state of Tamil Eelam.
One recent setback that the LTTE have suffered in their global propaganda campaign was Washington’s decision to include the group in the State Department’s 1997 list of proscribed international terrorist organizations. The inclusion has additionally prompted other states to review their own practices with regard to the legality of LTTE publicity activities. In the UK, for instance, which for many years has acted as the traditional stronghold of LTTE international propaganda, new laws are currently being drawn up which will make incitement of terrorism in Sri Lanka (and elsewhere), either through publicity or fund-raising in Britain, a criminal offense. New powers to ban foreign “terrorist groups” altogether will also be introduced, probably taking effect by the year 2000.(17)
Nevertheless, the extent of these obstacles should not be overstated. Many states in which the LTTE operate lack any type of legal infrastructure for identifying a group as terroristic. Countries such as Norway, Sweden and Australia (and, at least for the time being, the UK), for instance, have no statutory provisions for proscription similar to those existing in the US and Canada. Moreover, even in instances where legal stipulations of this type do operate, it has been relatively easy for the LTTE to bypass them by operating through cultural and social cover/front offices. In Canada, numerous organizations remain actively involved in publicity campaigns aimed at politicizing the Tamil diaspora in support of the LTTE cause (although this may change if new legislation is, in fact, passed by Parliament). There is no reason to believe that similar loopholes will not underscore the UK’s proposed new anti-terrorist measures. Indeed, any new law will probably only affect showcased LTTE offices such as Eelam House, effectively allowing the group to continue to work through other premises operating under different names.(18)
Alongside propaganda, the LTTE run a sophisticated international fundraising campaign. The majority of financial support comes from six main areas, all of which contain large Tamil diasporas: Switzerland, Canada, Australia, the UK, the US, and the Scandinavian countries.(19)
Motivations for contributing to the LTTE cause vary. Many of the older, more established members of expatriate communities fully believe in the LTTE struggle and its quest for a separate Tamil state, seeing this as the only long-term solution to the ethnic crisis in Sri Lanka.(20) Some, often illegal migrants or asylum seekers living on the fringes of an alien community, rely on the LTTE to facilitate their integration into society, paying the organization to help them find jobs, acquire forged identity papers and access housing.
In the US, funds essentially come from contributions given by wealthy individuals, a number of whom have pledged huge sums of money to the Tamil cause. It is believed that one such person, a prominent medical practitioner living in the USA, would give as much as US$100,000 at any given time, depending on the person who visited him and the intended purpose of the money. On a global scale, this individual remains the LTTE’s most important contributor, with some estimates of the total amount of money he has pledged over the last decade totalling as much as US$4 million. As one former LTTE US representative remarked: “We ask and he gives. He is our God.”(21)
Funds are not always procured directly from the Tamil diaspora. Often the LTTE will siphon off donations that are given to non-profit cultural bodies to finance Tamil social service, medical and rehabilitation programs in Sri Lanka. The great advantage of this form of financial procurement is that it is often extremely difficult to prove that funds raised for humanitarian purposes are being diverted to propagate terrorism or other forms of illegal activity elsewhere.(22) This is particularly true in states such as Norway, where there is not even a legal requirement for individuals to register as an organization before engaging in fundraising.(23)
There also have been suggestions that the LTTE raised money through drug running, particularly heroin from Southeast and Southwest Asia. According to a 1995 report by the Mackenzie Institute, a non-profit research group based in Toronto, the most profitable LTTE activities have been in the form of heroin trafficking. Sri Lankan officials concur, with one senior diplomat asserting that “collection of money from Tamil expatriate sources is insignificant compared to money from narcotics.”(24) Certainly, there are extensive profits to be made from the drug trade. The current cost of a single “hit” of heroin (less than a gram) in London, for instance, is thought to be around 10GBP, while the wholesale price of a kilogram sold in New York is estimated to be at least US$250,000.(25)
Definitive proof linking the LTTE to an official policy of drug running has yet to materialize.(26) However, a number of analysts have pointed out that the LTTE is in a particularly advantageous position to traffic narcotics thanks to the highly efficient international network it has developed to smuggle munitions around the world. Many of these arms routes pass either directly through, or very close to, major drug producing and transit centres, including Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, southern China, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Moreover, a fair amount of circumstantial evidence exists which suggests at least some sort of nexus between the LTTE and narcotics operations. The Mackenzie Institute has documented the arrests, worldwide, of several Tamils with links to militant organizations for drug running since the early 1980s, including V. Manoharan, the LTTE’s present International Chief.(27) Indeed after Manoharan signed a petition challenging the US designation of the LTTE as a terrorist group in 1997, INTERPOL disclosed that he had been imprisoned in France for two years for possession of heroin. Suspicions that the narcotics had been traded on behalf of the Tigers were subsequently raised after it was discovered that Prabhakaran had authorized LTTE France to pay a monthly salary to his family while he was in jail.
Money collected by LTTE international fundraising efforts forms an integral component of the organization’s so-called National Defense Fund. Indeed since losing effective control of the Jaffna peninsula in late 1995/early 1996, it is estimated that as much as eighty to ninety percent of the group’s war chest comes from overseas.(28) Presently, the LTTE is believed to be “petitioning” the overseas Tamil diaspora in the UK, Canada and Australia to contribute up to US$1000 per family in support of the group’s military campaign to win control of the crucial northern reaches of Highway A9.(29)
It is also through these global financial operations that the LTTE manage to acquire most of their weaponry and munitions. Sri Lankan agencies are aware, for instance, that one LTTE member, Dharmakulaseelan, played a key role in a multinational operation that was active in the early 1990s, where money raised in North America was forwarded to the Philippines and used to purchase weapons from Southeast Asian arms dealers.
The LTTE international fundraising effort has additionally been used to mount protracted and expensive legal defenses of the group and its members. This was, perhaps, best reflected following the arrest in 1995 of Manikavasagam Suresh, the LTTE representative to Canada.(30) In response, the organization initiated a mass mail-out campaign stating that the detention of Suresh was politically motivated and represented a direct attack on the entire Canadian Tamil population. In addition, it organized repeated demonstrations urging that Suresh’s trial be scrapped and hired two highly paid lawyers to provide legal counsel under the overall coordination of a prominent New York-based attorney, Viswanathan Ruthirakumaran—the de facto head of LTTE operations in the US. This huge effort ensured that the Suresh trial was one of the most keenly contested in Canadian legal history as far as reviews of security certificates were concerned.(31)
More recently and acting through Ruthirakumaran, the LTTE hired a top US law firm run by Ramsey Clark, a former Attorney General in the Lyndon Johnson administration, to fight Washington’s 1997 decision to label the group as a terrorist organization.(32) Although the effort subsequently failed, it nevertheless amply demonstrated the LTTE’s ability to access the very highest echelons of the US legal establishment—no mean feat for a jungle-based insurgent force located on the other side of the world.
Military and Military-Related Procurement
The third component of the LTTE procurement network revolves around weapons and munitions acquisition. This is perhaps the most secretive of the group’s international operations and the one that best demonstrates the organization’s global reach.
Prior to 1987, the LTTE procured most of its weaponry from four main sources:
Following the signing of the Indo-Sri Lankan Peace Accord of 1987, however, the LTTE lost the benefit of external Indian support.(36) In response, the organization started carrying out increasingly daring strikes against Sri Lankan military camps and weapons depots, acquiring most of its long-range artillery directly from Colombo’s armed forces.(37) In addition, the LTTE stepped up their indigenous weapons production program, developing a sophisticated short-range missile capability by 1990.(38) Most importantly, at least from the perspective of this paper, the organization expanded its international arms procurement network beyond the limited focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The LTTE arms network is headed by Tharmalingam Shanmugham, alias Kumaran Pathmanathan and colloquially known simply as “KP.” Second to Prabhakaran and with a US$500,000 bounty on his head, Pathmanathan is currently the second most wanted man in Sri Lanka. With more than twenty passports to his name, and possessing the ability to pass himself off as any middle-class Tamil, Kumaran travels widely. However, Sri Lankan intelligence sources believe his main bases to have been Singapore, Rangoon, Bangkok and, more recently, Johannesburg; he is alleged to have held various bank accounts in London, Frankfurt, Denmark, Athens, and Australia.(39)
Most members of the LTTE global weapons procurement team, known as the “KP Department,” have received no formal military training, including Kumaran himself. While not specifically trained in military skills, however, those inducted into the KP Department receive intensive instruction in a number of other areas including document forgery, gun running, communication, international freight shipping and investing.
At the heart of the KP Department’s operations is a highly secretive shipping network. The LTTE started building their maritime network with the help of a Bombay shipping magnate in the mid 1980s. Today the fleet numbers at least ten freighters, all of which are equipped with sophisticated radar and Inmarsat communication technology. The vessels mostly travel under Panamanian, Honduran or Liberian flags(40) (colloquially known as “Pan-Ho-Lib,” these maritime states are all characterized by notoriously lax registration requirements), tend to be crewed by Tamils originating from the Jaffna seaport of Velvettiturai and are typically owned by various front companies located in Asia. The ships frequently visit Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, South Africa, Burma, Turkey, France, Italy and Ukraine. Some are also heavily armed and have challenged both the Indian and the Sri Lankan navy when confronted. Ninety five percent of the time the vessels transport legitimate commercial goods such as hardwood, tea, rice paddy, cement and fertilizer. However, for the remaining five percent they play a vital role in supplying explosives, arms, ammunitions and other war-related material to the LTTE theatre of war.(41)
Singapore and Hong Kong, strategically situated on key shipping lanes and with highly developed banking structures, form the communications hub of the LTTE weapons procurement network.(42) These two “city states” orchestrate cells located in Thailand,(43) Pakistan and Burma,(44) effectively plugging the LTTE into the booming arms bazaars of Southeast and Southwest Asia. However the group is also known to have used front companies and contractors in Africa and Europe for deals involving the states of the former Soviet Union, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa.
More specifically, it is possible to divide LTTE international arms procurement activity into five main zones of geographic operation:
From these various sources, well-established trafficking routes are used to transport the munitions back to Sri Lanka. Weapons from China, North Korea and Hong Kong are trafficked across the South China Sea, through the Malacca and Singapore Straits to the Bay of Bengal and then on to Sri Lanka. Arms from Cambodia, Vietnam and Burma transit through Thailand before being loaded onto vessels at the southern port of Ranong for the trip across the Bay of Bengal. Weapons from Eastern Europe, Ukraine and the Middle East pass through the Suez Canal, around the Horn of Africa and then on to Sri Lanka. Finally, munitions from Africa tend to be smuggled back to LTTE jungle strongholds either around the Cape of Good Hope from ports in Liberia, Nigeria and Angola or via Madagascar from the Mozambican coastal town Beira.
Explosives have consistently been emphasized in Kumaran’s global weapons procurement efforts. In the early days of the LTTE insurgency, these had been supplied directly to the LTTE. However, the curtailment of Indian support from 1987 onwards necessarily forced the group to seek new outlets further afield. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the new favoured source has been Ukraine. One of the largest single consignments took place in August 1994 when an LTTE freighter, the MV Swene, left the Port of Nikoleyev laden with 60 tons of RDX and TNT explosive acquired from the Rubezone Chemicals plant. The transaction had been arranged through Carlton Trading, a LTTE front company located in Dhaka, which had produced a forged end-user certificate showing the Bangladeshi military as the approved recipient. The explosives were transported to the northeastern Sri Lankan coast and, protected by special Sea Tiger speed boats, off-loaded and transferred to several secret LTTE jungle bases. Some of these explosives (300-400 kg) were subsequently used in the massive January 1996 truck-bomb attack against the Central Bank building in Colombo—widely recognized as one of the most devastating terrorist assaults in history.(46)
Providing the LTTE with war material that cannot be indigenously produced has also been a main goal. The success of the KP Department in this regard can be judged from the quality of some of the war-material that the division has been able to procure for the Tigers. To counter strikes from the Sri Lankan air force (long a major threat to the LTTE), for instance, the KP department has been instrumental in building up a sophisticated surface-to-air missile capacity for the group. Mostly based on Soviet-made SAM-7s purchased from corrupt government officials and insurgent forces in Cambodia, it now includes far more deadly and accurate US-made Stinger missiles acquired from Afghanistan, according to current speculation.(47)
The LTTE’s international support network has ensured that the group is at the cutting edge of contemporary terrorist lethality and sophistication, possibly providing the prototype for the type of insurgent organization that the world is likely to witness in the next decade. There are a number of dimensions against which the Tigers’ operational effectiveness can be gauged.
The LTTE is the only group to have successfully assassinated two world leaders—Rajiv Ghandi of India in 1991 and Ranasinghe Premadsa of Sri Lanka in 1993. In both instances, the Tigers carried out extremely well-planned and orchestrated suicide strikes that successfully defeated the tightest security cordons of the Indian and Sri Lankan intelligence services.
The Black Tigers are widely recognized to be the most lethal suicide unit anywhere in the world. Its members employ the very latest in “bomb suit” technology with a number having allegedly received glider, micro-light and speedboat training in Europe and Southeast Asia for future “kamikaze” strikes.(48) Up to August 1998, the LTTE had conducted 155 battlefield and civilian suicide attacks.(49) This is compared to the 50 carried out by all other groups worldwide, including Hamas, Hizbollah, the Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK) and Babbar Khalsa.
In more conventional terms, the LTTE have demonstrated an equally significant strike-force potential. The organization’s brown, green and blue water naval capabilities are well armed, having a proven capacity to directly challenge both the Sri Lankan and Indian navies. The Charles Anthony Brigade is well trained, while standard Tiger military units have repeatedly demonstrated their proficiency in jungle warfare.
The LTTE retain a highly developed ability to procure and convert dual-use technology for specific military purposes. The group is currently believed to have the capacity to manufacture at least four types of maritime attack craft—all of which have been built from war-related equipment purchased in the West and Asia.(50)
The LTTE represent a particularly violent manifestation of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. The group threatens not only the domestic stability of Sri Lanka and India but also the security of the international system as a whole. At the time of writing, there was little sign of an early end to the Tamil secessionist war in Sri Lanka, with neither government nor rebels showing any indication of a readiness to move towards a negotiated settlement. This suggests a continuation, and possibly growth, of the global financial, propaganda and arms procurement support network upon which the LTTE depend for their military activities.
Curbing the LTTE’s transnational network will require concerted international collaboration. LTTE operations are global, they necessarily require a global response. To narrowly view the group’s activities within the context of a single state will provide a skewed, partial analysis that will be detrimental not only to Sri Lanka but also the international community in general. Such is the legacy of a world in which the dividing line between domestic, regional and international security has become increasingly blurred.
Unfortunately, the Western world has been particularly tolerant of the LTTE, in spite of its ruthlessness. Today, the group’s International Secretariat is located in London, its Paris-based Secretary directing the operations of front and cover offices in a geographic zone extending from Australia to Canada. To a large extent, this tolerance is a function of the common Tamil ethnic identity that underscores the LTTE both domestically as well as in the diaspora—something which has made it increasingly difficult for governments and law enforcement agencies to differentiate between ordinary Tamils and pro-LTTE activists. Moreover, many Western politicians believe that it is the ethnic or the minority vote that makes the difference in an election. As such, they tend to sympathize with the political aspirations and grievances of minorities and ethnic groups living in their constituencies. Because the Tigers have been able to run effective propaganda campaigns which have successfully mobilized significant sectors of the overseas Tamil diaspora in their favour, politicians have become increasingly reluctant to support tougher actions against the LTTE for fear that this would impinge on their local electoral support base.
By permitting the LTTE to open offices and establish representation, Western countries have unwittingly blessed the group’s political and military agenda. LTTE propaganda and fundraising activities conducted in Europe, Australasia, South Africa and Canada have proved vital to the Tigers’ ongoing terrorist and guerrilla campaign in Sri Lanka. Moreover, the generally unrestrained liberal democratic freedom that the LTTE has been allowed to enjoy in these states has enabled the group to slowly build and develop a complex, multi-layered and truly integrated global support structure which has become increasingly difficult to detect and root out.
The activities of the LTTE octopus have serious implications for Sri Lanka and the international community as a whole. As long as the group is permitted to conduct propaganda, raise funds, procure weapons and ship supplies to Sri Lanka, its guerrilla and terrorist campaign will continue. This will generate more violence and contribute to an already serious refugee problem, both of which carry significant implications for stability in what is already a highly volatile part of the world.
With globalization, events that affect the affairs of one state can have important implications for governments both regionally and globally. The movement of refugees, arms transfers, terrorism, money laundering and drug trafficking—all of which are by-products of the LTTE’s war in Sri Lanka—have repeatedly demonstrated their potential to disrupt national and international security in the post-Cold War era. By appeasing groups such as the LTTE, Western states are helping to undermine not only the viability of their own borders, but also the integrity of the global system that they claim to represent.
1. Personal correspondence with US Embassy officials, Colombo, July 1997.
2. Personal correspondence with Zimbabwe Defence Industries (ZDI), Colombo, August 1997.
3. See Mike Winchester, “Ship of Fools: Tamil Tiger’s Heist of the Century,” Soldier of Fortune 23/8 (August 1998): 36; “The Arms Trade,” The New York Times, 07/03/98; “Mortar Ship Mystery Still Baffles Defense Officials,” The Sunday Times,27/06/97; “What Happened To Ship Carrying 32,400 Mortar Bombs?, The Mystery Letter That Deals a Death Blow to Intelligence Setup Reveals All,” The Sunday Times, 20/07/97; “Arms Ship Mystery Deepens, Possibility of LTTE Ploy: Zimbabwe Official Here for Probe,” The Sunday Times, 03/08/97; and “A Tamil Tiger Primer on International Arms Bazaar,” International Herald Tribune, 10/03/98.
4. For good overviews and accounts of the conflict’s origins, see Robert Oberst, “A War Without Winners in Sri Lanka,” Current History 91/563 (1992); Robert Wirsing, “Sri Lanka’s Ethnic Divide,” Current History 95/600 (1996); Gamini Samaranayake, “Political Violence in Sri Lanka: A Diagnostic Approach,” Terrorism and Political Violence 9/2 (1997); “Sri Lanka,” The Europa World Year Book (London: Europa Publications, 1997); and “Conflict and Community in Contemporary Sri Lanka,” South Asia Special Issue XX (1997).
5. V. Manoharan replaced Lawrence Thiligar as head of the International Secretariat in early 1997.
6. Anthony Davis, “Tiger International,” Asiaweek, 26/11/96.
8. Rohan Gunaratna, Sri Lanka’s Ethnic Conflict and National Security (Colombo: South Asian Network on Conflict Research, 1998), 372.
9. Canada (and more specifically Toronto) currently has the largest overseas Tamil expatriate community, numbering approximately 200,000 in 1998.
10. Rohan Gunaratna, “LTTE Organization and Support Base in the US,” unpublished report prepared for the US Government, 1; “The LTTE Rides High in Norway,” Lanka Outlook, Summer 1998; “To Catch a Tiger - Tamil Separatists’ Overseas Network is Under Pressure,” The Island, 25/05/98; and “Sri Lanka Wants Action Against LTTE Front Group,” Reuters (Internet version), 06/12/98.
11. Sri Lankan authorities concede that LTTE propaganda activities are probably between 5 and 10 years more advanced than their own.
12. Davis, “Tiger International.”
13. Two such sites include:
14. CROSPEL’s main Toronto representative, Tony Ruprecht, was instrumental in inviting Minister Thondaman to visit Ottawa in March 1994 to discuss Canadian mediation in Sri Lanka.
15. Through the IED and the efforts of Karen Parker, its Chief Delegate to the UN, the LTTE were instrumental in gaining the support of at least 25 NGOs in the US, all of which lobbied on behalf of the group at the 53rd UN Human Rights Commission in 1997.
16. Rohan Gunaratna, “LTTE Fundraisers Still on the Offensive,” Jane’s Intelligence Review, December 1997; “Aussies Boot Pro-Tiger Candidates,” Lankanet News, 08/10/98.
17. “To Catch a Tiger,” The Island, 25/05/98.
18. “To Catch a Tiger,” The Island, 25/05/98. The LTTE is currently thought to have the benefit of at least 30 front and cover organizations in the UK, including the Tamil Center for Human Rights (TCHR), Human Rights for Tamils (HURT), Melrose Publishers, Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO), Tamil Eelam Economic Development Organization (TEEDOR).
19. Davis, “Tiger International”; Gunaratna, “LTTE Fundraisers Still on the Offensive”; “Tamil Expatriate Funds Finance LTTE Terror,” Daily News, 08/06/98; Raymond Bonner, A Tamil Tiger Primer on International Arms Bazaar, International Herald Tribune, 10/03/98; Winchester, “A Ship of Fools”; and “The LTTE Rides High in Norway,” Lanka Outlook (Summer 1998): 24-25.
20. Personal correspondence with Mohan Samarsinghe, Head of Public Information, Sri Lankan High Commission, Ottawa, July 1998.
21. Personal correspondence with N.S. Krishnan, first LTTE European Representative, London, January 1998.
22. Personal correspondence with Douglas Ranmuthugala, Senior Analyst with the Australian Federal Police’s International Operations Support Team, Canberra, September 1998.
23. “The LTTE Rides High in Norway,” 24.
24. “To Catch a Tiger,” The Island, 25/05/98; Davis, “Tiger International.”
25. Peter Chalk, Gray Area Phenomena in Southeast Asia: Piracy, Drug Trafficking and Political Terrorism (Canberra: SDSC, 1997), 48.
26. Personal correspondence with Douglas Ranmuthugala, Senior Analyst with the Australian Federal Police’s International Operations Support Team, Canberra, September 1998.
27. Davis, “Tiger International”; “To Catch a Tiger,” The Island, 25/05/98. One of the most recent apprehensions occurred in September 1998 when a 34-year-old Tamil was arrested at Maduari airport carrying 27 kilograms of heroin, worth approximately 54 million rupees. According to officials from the Indian customs Central Intelligence Unit, the quantity of heroin seized suggested that “very powerful people were involved in the deal.” They also confirmed that they would be looking closely at possible LTTE involvement in the attempted smuggling operation. For further details see “Sri Lankan Carrying Rs. 54m. Worth of Heroin at Madurai Airport,” The Island, 07/09/98.
28. Personal correspondence with Sri Lankan Government officials, Ottawa, July 1998. Similar figures were expressed by Douglas Ranmuthugala and Anthony Davis during interviews conducted in Canberra, September, 1998.
29. The Sri Lankan Government is presently engaged in a ferocious battle for control of the northern section of the country’s main arterial highway, the A9. Securing this road is seen as tactically important for two main reasons: (i) It would link the army-controlled Jaffna peninsula with the rest of the country; and (ii) it would split LTTE forces into two distinct east-west zones.
30. Suresh was arrested and detained in East Toronto under section 40(1) of the Canadian Immigration Act that prohibits entry to all persons suspected of having links to terrorist organizations. At the time of writing, Suresh was still in Canada awaiting a final decision on his case from immigration and security authorities.
31. Gunaratna, “LTTE Organization and Support Base in the US,” 2-3, 15. See also “To Catch a Tiger,” The Island, 25/05/98.
32. “To Catch a Tiger,” The Island, 25/05/98.
33. Many of the weapons acquired from Afghanistan had initially been supplied by the US Government in support of the Mujahideen insurgency against the Soviet-backed regime of Babrak Karmal. One study estimates that by 1987, some 65,000 tons of munitions were being transferred each year to the Afghan rebels via Pakistan. Chalk, Grey Area Phenomena, 13. See also “The Covert Arms Trade,” The Economist, 12/02/94 and Chris Smith, The Diffusion of Small Arms and Light Weapons in Pakistan and North India (London: Centre for Defence Studies, 1993), 3-13.
34. Between 1983 and 1987, the Indian Government played a key role in supporting the militant Tamil struggle in Sri Lanka. In the eyes of many hard-liners in New Delhi, Colombo had become too close to the West since 1977 and needed to be coerced back into the non-aligned orbit. Supporting groups such as the LTTE was seen as one way of achieving this.
35. Gunaratna, “The Illicit Transfer of Conventional Weapons: The Role of State and Non-State Actors in South Asia,” 19-20.
36. The shift in Indian policy was brought about largely due to growing concerns that the LTTE insurgency in Sri Lanka was working to destabilize South Asia and encouraging secessionist sentiments in the state of Tamil Nadu. Between 1987 and 1991, an Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) was deployed to Sri Lanka to oversee regional elections and the re-integration of Tamil militants into mainstream society. The LTTE rejected New Delhi’s intervention and fought a bloody war against the IPKF, forcing a humiliating withdrawal of Indian troops in early 1990. For a good overview of this period see Manoj Joshi, “On the Razor’s Edge: The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 19 (1996): 19-42.
37. One of the most audacious raids occurred in 1996 when the LTTE struck the Mullaitivu base-complex, killing 1200 soldiers and 200 support troops, in addition to capturing some US$70 million worth of arms.
38. This missile capacity revolves around the Pasilan 2000, a sophisticated weapon that is capable of carrying a 25kg gelignite warhead over a distance of 1km. When asked why the missile was named the “Pasilan 2000,” a LTTE cadre boasted, “another armed group will not be able to produce such a…weapon even by the year 2000.” See Rohan Gunaratna, International and Regional Security Implications of the Sri Lankan Tamil Insurgency (Colombo: Alumni Association of the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies, 1997), 91.
39. See Davis, “Tiger International”; “A Tamil Tiger Primer on International Arms Bazaar,” The International Herald Tribune, 10/03/98; and Winchester, “Ship of Fools,” 38-39.
40. It should be noted that LTTE ships also sail other flags. The Sun Bird, also known as Illiyana, Francis and Ichulite, for instance, is registered under a Cypriot flag; the Amazon, under a New Zealand flag; and the Golden Bird, also known as the Baris, St. Anthony, Sophia and Parhan under a Maltese flag.
41. Personal correspondence with Douglas Ranmuthuga, Senior Analyst with the Australian Federal Police’s International Operations Support Team, Canberra, September 1998. See also Winchester, “Ship of Fools,” 39 and Gunaratna, International and Regional Security Implications of the Sri Lankan Tamil Insurgency, 27. Although LTTE ships are rarely seized, the group has suffered some significant losses to its maritime network. For example, the MV Cholakeri capsized off the Thai coast on November 28, 1992; the Ahat (Yahata) was destroyed on January 16, 1993; the Horizon (Comex Joux 3) was destroyed on February 14, 1996; the Stillus Limmasul was (eventually) destroyed on November 2, 1997.
42. Singapore has also emerged as the LTTE favoured market for the purchase of dual-use items such as computers, electronics, outboard motors and diving gear.
43. Particularly Phuket and Trang, a coastal town on the Andaman Sea. A small island in the Andaman Sea also serves as an important LTTE naval base used to train the group’s Sea Tiger Wing. It is alleged that Norwegian ex-special forces instruct LTTE frogmen at this base, providing particularly useful lessons in the techniques and tactics of underwater demolition.
44. Particularly Twantay in the Irrawady Delta south of Rangoon.
45. Personal correspondence with US Defense Department official, Washington, July 1998. See also Winchester, “Ship of Fools,” 39-41 and Gunaratna, “Illicit Transfer of Conventional Weapons: The Role of State and Non-State Actors in South Asia,” 21-25.
46. See Winchester, “Ship of Fools,” 41; Davis “Tiger International;” and “The Arms Trade,” The New York Times, 07/03/98.
47. It is estimated that the US supplied as many as 900 Stinger missiles to the Afghan Mujahideen during the 1980s, the fate of as many as 560 is still unknown. See Chalk, Grey Area Phenomena in Southeast Asia, 19; Prashant Dikshit, “Proliferation of Small Arms and Minor Weapons,” Strategic Analysis 17/2 (May 1994): 195-6; and “The Arms Trade,” The New York Times, 07/03/98.
48. Personal correspondence with Sri Lankan intelligence source, Colombo, January 1998.
49. LTTE formally acknowledged that it had lost 145 Black Tigers in early July 1998 but this figure did not include civilian and overseas attacks, which the LTTE generally does not claim.
50. These include:
The Thrikka, a 4 crew, 45 knot, petrol engine vessel equipped with 1 machine gun and normally used by frogmen for debussing.
The Sudai, a 6 crew, 10 knot, petrol engine vessel equipped with 1 machine gun and used for attacks against naval craft.
The Muraj, a 10 crew, 45 knot, petrol engine vessel equipped with 3 machine guns and used for attacks against naval craft and for landing.
The Idayan, a 2 crew, 45 knot fast attack vessel that can also be converted for suicide operations.
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