Eyes of the Fleet

Eyes of the Fleet

Monday, June 04, 2007

Sri Lanka looks for some help with the LTTE (Tamil Tigers)

Covered here, and interesting variation on Port Security initiatives from one of the victims of smuggled or directly ships weapons:
Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama yesterday (Sunday) appealed to defense ministers and military commanders attending the Annual IISS Asian Security Summit – The Shangri-La Dialogue, to ensure that their governments remain focused on the complexities the Government of Sri Lanka faces in grappling with terrorism of the LTTE and not to permit the LTTE to use their territories or waters to continue to terrorize the people of Sri Lanka. Minister Rohitha Bogollagama: Sri Lanka needed international and bilateral cooperation from other countries which could destroy the worldwide activities of the LTTE". Minister Rohitha Bogollagama: Sri Lanka needed international and bilateral cooperation from other countries which could destroy the worldwide activities of the LTTE".

Leading the Sri Lanka delegation which was participating for the first time in this influential defense forum which is being held for the 6th time, the Minister underscored the threat posed to Sri Lanka, countries in the region and maritime users of the Indian Ocean by the attacks of the LTTE. Referring to the arms smuggling activities of the LTTE carried out using a number of LTTE ships flying under different flags, the Minister asked, "How are they able to bring these to Sri Lanka ? They pass through several ports. There are loading ports, discharging ports and transiting ports. They sometimes come in containers." He said "This chain has to be arrested, and towards this end Sri Lanka needed international and bilateral cooperation from other countries which could destroy the worldwide activities of the LTTE". The Minister said the LTTE’s supply chain and funding must be severed to end the conflict in Sri Lanka. (emphasis added)
Good question - if arms can be slipped into Sri Lanka so easily, how hard is it to slip them into other countries using the same techniques?

Full text of speech here:
The LTTE’s state of the art international propaganda, fundraising, procurement and shipping networks, have been able to procure both war and war related equipment with relative ease. The organization boasts of having maintained a vast global network since the mid-1980s with political/propaganda offices and cells in some 54 countries. It generates annual revenue of US $ 10-30 Million per month largely through extortion of the over 1 million strong Tamil diaspora and clandestine operations carried out in host countries. However, unlike most terrorist organizations, the LTTE is one of the few terrorist organizations in the world with proven maritime capability, owning a substantial number of ships sailing across the oceans under the flags of different countries which, alongside traditional trading activity, engages in smuggling of military hardware. The LTTE has also established a naval combat unit known as the ‘Sea Tigers’.

Thus Sri Lanka confronts what Terrorism expert and Chief Scientist at the Centre for Asymmetric Threat Studies at the Swedish National Defence College Dr Magnus Ranstorp has described as “[LTTE is] probably the most sophisticated terrorist organization in the world.”
The challenge the LTTE poses is not confined to the waters of the Indian Ocean. In this modern globalized world where the element of technological transfer amongst different terrorist groups takes place at a rapid pace, the LTTE’s maritime terrorist attacks offer ‘copycat models’ for other terrorist groups. The LTTE also provides a convenient transport facility for other terrorist organizations. Thus the LTTE’s activities are being watched as an early example of emerging trends and patterns in maritime terrorism.

The LTTE had carried out ten suicide attacks on Sri Lanka Navy vessels with the use of explosive laden boats before the Al Qaeda attacked ‘USS Cole’ in Yemen in October 2000. In fact the Al-Qaeda attack on the 'USS Cole' was a copycat of LTTE’s attack on Abheetha, a Sri Lankan navy supply ship on 4 May 1991. In a 19 March 2003 interview with the BBC Sea Tigers Chief Soosai was to state, “ I think in Yeman they used our strategy of targeting the hull in their suicide attack to blow up an American ship ‘USS Cole’ - this is exactly what we used to do.”

It is well known that the tactical resource base of terrorism for the next generation will take the form of ‘network terrorism’ in which actors across a spectrum of conflicts and crimes will modify the existing structures to take advantage of the inter-linked service arrangements. In this context, the LTTE with its global reach through the Tamil Diaspora and its fleet of merchant vessels is ahead of the competition in acting as couriers, as well as providers of military training to several other terrorist groups in the region. The LTTE ships have been used to provide alternate supply channels to other groups and crime syndicates in the region for their arms and human smuggling and drug trafficking activities, as the LTTE has established a presence in the arms black-market. For instance in 1995 an LTTE ship had clandestinely transported a consignment of arms and ammunition dispatched by the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM) of Pakistan to the southern Philippines for use by the Abu Sayyaf.

The London based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in its publication 'Military Balance 2007' also refers to commercial links between the LTTE and the Al-Qaeda movement. It has been suggested that the LTTE established linkages with the Mujahiddins in Afghanistan as far back as 1987, and in 2001 an LTTE delegation travelled to Kabul shortly before 9/11. India's National Security Adviser M K Narayanan in a speech at the 42nd Munich Conference on Security Policy on 11 February 2007 said that both Jihadi movements and the LTTE were relying heavily on funds from trafficking in narcotics which has doubled in recent years.

The ramifications of LTTE behavior on the global terrorism is significant. It must be recalled that the LTTE resported to suicide bombing and mastered the use of the suicide jackets with C-4 explosives with devastating impact long before the Al-Qaeda movement. Infact the LTTE was a pioneer in the field and is believed to have conducted 155 battlefield and civilians suicide missions up until August 1998, compared with 50 attacks by all other groups around the world, including Hamas, Hizbollah and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). It has also been noted that suicide bombing jackets used in the London underground in July 2005 were very similar to the jackets used by the LTTE in Sri Lanka in the late 1980's and throughout the 1990s and that the terrorist attacks in Bali and Jordan also have the hallmarks of suicide technology that had previously been used in Lebanon and Sri Lanka.

Furthermore, the LTTE’s July 2001 attack on Colombo airport was one of the most destructive acts of terrorism in aviation history. In more recent times, the LTTE’s ‘Air Tiger Wing’, developed using the cover of the ceasefire agreement since 2002, launched its first strike on the Sri Lankan Air Force base in Katunayake on 26 March 2007 but failed to achieve its desired effect. Subsequent attacks have been carried out on April 24 in an area adjoining the Palaly Military base in Jaffna and on 28 April near Colombo, on the night when most Sri Lankans were watching the finals of the Cricket World Cup being played in the Caribbean.
Worth a complete reading.

Also speaking at the same conference, defense Secretary Gates of the U.S. His comments found here include a commitment to meet our commitments in Asia and more:
Contrary to the perceptions of some, the United States remains deeply committed to a strong, vibrant partnership with Asia across the full spectrum of economic, political, and security dimensions, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said in a broad-ranging policy address in Singapore June 2.

"Our commitments elsewhere notwithstanding, we will fulfill our commitments in Asia," Gates declared in remarks to representatives of the 25 nations participating in the Sixth International Institute of Strategic Studies’ Asia Security Summit, also known as the Shangri-La Dialogue.
No single nation can deal with the many international challenges the world faces, according to Gates. They require all civilized nations "to come together in new and dynamic ways – as we are doing in Asia."

In particular Gates cited the challenge of fighting terrorist networks that "have become adept at taking advantage of the ungoverned spaces of the real and virtual worlds to organize, train, and recruit."

Organizations such as al Qaida and Jemaah Islayiyah, don't seek to take over countries as did the guerilla movements of the 20th century, Gates argued, but to weaken states and create "vacuums of authority" from which they can operate.

"We have learned the hard way that allowing failed states to turn into terrorist sanctuaries has catastrophic consequences," he said.

Gates said that terrorist attacks in Indonesia and the Philippines, as well as plots foiled in Singapore and elsewhere, reinforce the need to cooperate at all levels, including military operations, law enforcement, information sharing, training, and in some instances, joint operation.

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