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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sri Lanka:Terrorist/Pirate "Sea Tigers" Sunk?

The Sri Lankan government and it military have the Tamil Tigers on the ropes, it appears:
The Sri Lankan military gave an ultimatum to Tamil Tiger rebels to surrender or face annihilation in the eight square mile sliver of coast where they were pinned down along with thousands of civilians.

The army, which claims to have killed more than 500 rebels over the weekend, set up loudspeakers on the edge of the “no-fire zone” and broadcast the ultimatum.

“We have given them the truth,” said Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara, a military spokesman. “This is the last time they have to come and surrender.”

While the fighting and accusations of brutality on land continue, some are writing of the death of the world's best known terrorist navy. For example, the Asian Tribune's "LTTE’s Era of Sea Piracy Has Ended", which includes a partial recounting of the "Sea Tigers" attacks on merchant and fishing fleets:
Operating the most comprehensive naval networks among the designated foreign terrorist organizations by the U.S., the LTTE’s Sea Tigers were considered, until recently, as "untouchable" pirates who feared no nation. They were one of the leading pirates in the world, though little known, because of their unfortunate targets were often Malaysian, Jordanian, Philippine, Maldivian Chinese and Sri Lankan ships and the crew often disappeared.
Indian Ocean is a hunting ground for two of the world’s notorious sea criminals: LTTE and Somali pirates. Both these groups are operating in lawless, semi-autonomous pieces of land conducive to their unlawful acts. However, Somali pirates usually take crew members hostage to obtain ransom, but the LTTE, more interested in the goods—to feed its cadres—and the ship—to use for smuggling— than ransom, often got rid of them to cover up its trails.

On May 23, 1997, Greek registered freighter "Stillus Limassul" left Mozambique port of Beria for Sri Lanka carrying 32,400 81mm mortar bombs intended for Sri Lanka's army. The Sri Lankan armed forces never received this U.S. $ 3 million consignment of arms. The LTTE off-loaded the military supplies from this ship and transported it by small speed boats to LTTE jungle bases off Mullaitivu coast. These weapons, a month later, were used by the LTTE with a devastating effect to control the A9 Highway.

When the LTTE captured MV Cordiality near the port of Trincomalee, they killed all five Chinese crew members on board. On May 25, 1999, LTTE hijacked the MV Sik Yang, a 2818-ton Malaysian cargo ship with a cargo of bagged salt, which was sailing from Tuticorin, India and used it as a phantom vessel (Salt, sodium chloride can be changed to sodium chlorate easily, which when mixed with aluminum can make very powerful explosive powder). The fate of its 63-member crew is still unknown.

In December 2006, LTTE forced a Jordanian ship, MV Farah III carrying 14,000 tons of Indian rice to run aground. LTTE robbed the rice and removed all radio communication equipment, radar, lights and generators from the vessel. Asian Tribune reports on December 24, "Jordan Transport Ministry told the Jordanian news Agency, Petra that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) seized one of the Jordanian ships off Sri Lanka North East coast and burgled it."

In March 2007, LTTE hijacked an Indian fishing trawler “Sri Krishna” off the Moldavian waters and kept its crew hostage in Vanni. The Maldivian Coast Guard intercepted the vessel, reported missing since March 4, with a large consignment of artillery shells after LTTE cadres commandeered it and fired at the Maldivians. An Indian captain and four LTTE operatives were taken into custody by the Maldivian Coast Guard.

According to the Sri Lanka Ministry of Foreign Affairs, from October 1994 to January 2007, ships LTTE attacked also include MV Ocean Trader, MV Sea Dancer, MV Lanka Muditha, MV Irish Mona, MV Princess Wave, MV Athena, MV Mission, MV Morang Bong, MV Princess Kash, MV Newco Endurance, MV Julia, MV Mercs Uhana, MV Pride, MV Dunhinda, MV Fu-Yuan and MV Liverpool.
In addition, there were several sea battles with Sri Lankan naval forces, often marked by the use of Tiger "suicide boats." See here.

The Sea Tigers were known for their innovative boats and tactics, including the use of divers to attack ships in port. Other weapons included the alleged manned suicide torpedo. Attacks on merchant ships were not limited to divers. See here for a report on Tiger boats attacking a ship in port.

The "Sea Tigers" would assert, in part of their media campaign, to be live savers, as set out in their version of the Farah III episode:
The Tigers deny it is piracy and report the "rescue" of the crew see here:

Tamil Tiger rebels say they have rescued 25 sailors from a crippled Jordanian ship off Sri Lanka's north-eastern coast, dismissing government accusations that they staged a "pirate attack".

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) spokesman Rasiah Ilanthiriyan says the seamen are being taken to safety despite rough seas.

"We noticed a ship drifting in our waters and we also saw suspicious activity of the Sri Lankan Navy [and] we boarded the ship to rescue the crew," he said.

But Sri Lanka's Defence Ministry says a distress message indicating that the vessel was "under armed pirate attack" was received by the Maritime Rescue Coordinating Centre in Britain, which conveyed it to the Sri Lankan naval authorities.
If reports of their end are true, not much time should be spent mourning their departure from the stage.

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