SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
With an estimated Tamil population of 30,000, Australia is one of the largest sources of funding for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). In confirmation, the Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona disclosed on May 1, 2007, that the LTTE internationally raises approximately USD 10 million to USD 30 million a month, of which almost 20 to 30 per cent comes from Australia.
However, acknowledging the fact that funds were being raised in his country to finance LTTE operations on May 2, 2007, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer stressed that the amounts raised were not huge: "Some of it comes from Australia, probably nothing like 30 per cent, but small amounts do come from Australia. I don't think there's any doubt about that. It's been very hard to collect evidence, though, about money in Australia and paid directly to the Tamil Tigers, which is, an offense.'' While many of the Tamils in Australia identify with the LTTE’s cause, only some are known to be engaged in raising funds.
But Australia is emerging as a "central front of a distant war – a rich source of millions of dollars in funds and equipment for the Tamil Tiger terrorist group to help wage their separatist war in Sri Lanka," The Weekend Australian reported on May 5, 2007. Extracts of the report titled 'How tsunami cash bankrolled Tigers' stated: "Sources say LTTE had been raising modest amounts of money here since the 1980s but its operations were transformed by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami which gave the group its first chance to milk large amounts of cash from Australians."
Australia, in pursuance of UN Security Council Resolution No. 1373 on suppressing the financing of terrorism, on December 21, 2001, proscribed 25 terrorist organizations, including the LTTE. The purpose was to bring the LTTE under an asset-freezing programme and stem the flow of funds to the group from Australia. Under this programme, it is an offence to provide or even possess any asset belonging to a listed terrorist group or individual, and this offence is punishable by up to five years imprisonment.
The LTTE, for which procuring adequate finances lies at the heart of its terrorist campaign, reportedly raises funds in Australia through a range of front organizations working among the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora. The rebel cover organisations have gradually secured a considerable degree of visibility in Australia, with networks of offices and cells to carry out propaganda, organise the procurement and movement of weapons and raise funds from the Diaspora.
There are at least 300 LTTE activists spread across Australia. Some of them use "intimidatory" or "emotional tactics" to attract funds from other Tamils and those "who refuse to give money are labeled traitors and subsequently isolated by the community." LTTE donors in Australia are "spread across the economic spectrum, ranging from grocery store owners to medical specialists, lawyers and media players."
According to the Victoria-based Society for Peace and Human Rights, a 54-year-old Tamil Australian, identified as Thillainadarajah Jeyakumar, a lecturer at Swinburne Technical College in Victoria, was the chief agent of the LTTE in Australia and the person behind the LTTE network operating in the country to finance, lobby and direct the operations of pro-LTTE Tamils. Jeyakumar, who died on March 29, 2007, was posthumously conferred the title of Maamaniathar (Great human being) by the LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran, an award conferred only to its hardcore cadres. He was the force behind uniting the Australian Tamils to provide moral support and help to the people in his homeland. He was the second to receive this award in Australia, the first recipient being C. J. Eliezer of La Trobe University, the founder of the Australian Federation of Tamils, the first LTTE front established in Australia.
Tamil Week in its March 31, 2007, edition reported that Jeyakumar hatched the plan to send the light aircraft that dropped the bombs on the Katunayakae Air Base on March 26, 2007, with the international arms procurement agent of the LTTE, K. Pathmanathan alias ‘KP’. Singapore-based terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna reiterated that the LTTE had been procuring aircraft, arms, explosives and other technological devices from Australia for more than a decade and that the LTTE were buying light aircraft from local manufacturers in the mid-1990s and, as recently as 2006, bought remote control devices to detonate bombs in Sri Lanka. Gunaratna records: "It started in the mid-1990s but the procurement activities continued as far as last year in Australia. The last items they purchased were remote control devices which have now been uncovered in Sri Lanka with Australian markings." Gunaratna believes Governments had been slow to react because they had been so focused on stopping Islamist extremists: "Within the intelligence community now it’s very well established that because Governments turned a blind eye to this today there are light aircraft the Tigers are using to mount attacks in Sri Lanka."
The pro-LTTE Website Tamil Net summarizes Jeyakumar’s contribution to LTTE activity in Australia: "Praised as the leading force behind the Australian Tamils Co-ordinating Committee for the last two decades, Jeyakumar is credited with uniting Australian Tamils towards supporting Tamil Eelam struggle and for his unwavering commitment to help the Tamil people." Such assertions clearly suggest that the Australian Tamils Co-ordinating Committee (ATCC) is a one of the LTTE’s leading frontal organizations, among many others that coordinate the outfit’s operations in Australia.
Though a number of LTTE front organizations have been raising funds in Australia, a pivotal role has been played by the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO), which was established in 1985, with an extensive network of branches operating in at least 28 countries. The TRO works under the guise of a charity organization and is reported to have collected close to AUD 1.1 million in donations from Australia following the Tsunami in December 2004. The pro-LTTE lobby managed to raise funds from the state of Victoria for a promised blood bank which never came into existence. The Victorian Government also granted AUD 850,000 to a fishnet project in Jaffna; once again, the money was not used for the project. According to a November 1, 2006, report, a family of three – Sivarajah Yathavan, his wife Abirami Yathavan and P. Senthuran, his father-in-law – has taken full control of the LTTE operations in Victoria.
Speaking in the Federal Parliament in January 2005, the Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer had stated that the Government had identified TRO as an entity associated with the LTTE and that the Government had not funded TRO’s development programme because of this association.
Frontal organizations of the LTTE not only raise funds by getting donations from the Tamil people willing to fund the ‘final war’, but also resort to extortion and intimidation of the Tamil Diaspora. Corroborating this, Sri Lanka's Honorary Consul in Melbourne, Rodney Arambewela, disclosed that there had been a large number of complaints from the Sri Lankan community relating to intimidation for donations by the LTTE. The Tamil community in Australia is under a lot of pressure to help the LTTE, he stated, adding, "Unfortunately some of the people who have been contributing these funds are being intimidated, that's what we hear, been pressured to contribute." The LTTE also takes recourse to narcotics and human trafficking to augment its revenues.
LTTE fronts in Australia "use a variety of tactics to attract donations, including music festivals, dance concerts and radiothons. Typically, money raised is put into bank accounts in Southeast Asia before it ends up in the pockets of arms dealers and other LTTE intermediaries in the region. To conceal the tracks, funds are often transferred into legitimate bank accounts in Malaysia and Thailand." Following the funding trail in one case, documents obtained by The Weekend Australian showed one Tamil group transferring USD 400,000 out of Australia between 2000 and 2003 for alleged weapons procurement. Couriers, usually LTTE sympathisers from Melbourne or Sydney, are sometimes used to carry the money to Kuala Lumpur. Sources indicate that the money is then moved by intermediaries to either Indonesia or Cambodia where the LTTE "gets a lot of its military weapons".
The Australian Government in January 2005 launched a two-year joint investigation by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Victoria Police into claims that charity groups were raising funds for the LTTE. The joint investigation led to many arrests and disclosures. On November 23, 2005, the AFP raided premises of LTTE operatives in Melbourne and arrested more than 15 persons, including Jeyakumar and ‘Economic Advisor’ Jeyarajan Maheswaran. The AFP also seized computer hardware, passports, cash, diaries, bank receipts, and cheque books from the operatives.
Two prominent LTTE leaders in Australia – Sivaraj Yathevan, in charge of Eela Murasu, a Tamil community paper, and his aide Arooran Vignanamoorthy – who had access to AUD 526,000 in two bank accounts between August 2001 and December 2005, were arrested on May 1, 2007, during raids conducted on 10 premises in Melbourne’s east — at Vermont, Glen Waverley, Mount Waverley, Dandenong, East Burwood — and in the Sydney suburbs of Toongabbie and Parramatta. Vinayagamoorthy reportedly spent USD 97,000 on transmitters and receivers from Tasmania and Queensland used by the LTTE in explosive devices. The duo was charged of using Tsunami relief charity money, collected for the victims of the devastated Tamil areas, for terrorist activities in Sri Lanka. The offences are alleged to have occurred between July 6, 2002, and May 1, 2007. Federal police counter terrorism spokesman Frank Prendergast disclosed: "It will be alleged in court that these men are members of an organisation engaging in terror activities overseas, and they have been providing active material support to that group. They had duped Australians who thought they were donating money to Tsunami victims in Sri Lanka, as well as other charities." He, however, stressed, "There was no evidence that the men planned to carry out any terrorist attacks in Australia.
With growing LTTE activities in Australia, the Federal Government is considering a ban on LTTE under domestic law. Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, addressing a gathering at the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) in London on December 18, 2006, stated, "We are seriously considering banning the LTTE. In the past two weeks Australian authorities have had discussions concerning the LTTE and a decision was expected to be taken shortly." He added further that Australian intelligence services had monitored the activities of some Tamil charities that had used the cover to illegally raise funds for the LTTE in Sri Lanka.
The large numbers of Tamils present in the country, and the political and electoral influence they wield in certain constituencies has, however, precluded effective action against the LTTE, and the group is yet to be outlawed in Australia. There is, nevertheless, a growing realization that, even though Australia’s interests have not, thus far, been directly challenged by the LTTE, the group’s activities are no longer confined to Sri Lanka alone, and it has, according to the IISS 'The Military Balance 2007', established commercial links with the al Qaeda as well. There is, consequently, a danger that the Tamil rebels can, in the event of their failure to achieve their goals in Sri Lanka, engage in activities that could seriously threaten security in other countries where they currently find safe haven and patronage.
The State’s Conceit
During a visit to the Sui gas fields in Balochistan province on May 10, 2007, President Pervez Musharraf declared that the "security forces are on the verge of wiping out militant camps in Balochistan." Reiterating an amnesty offer to the insurgents, he stated that the Government would not take any action against the rebels if they surrendered their arms, but that failure to do so would invite the wrath of the state: "They are our brothers and sisters. Give up weapons and terrorism; otherwise the law will take its course. We will not allow terrorism." Claiming that the security forces had destroyed 65 farari (absconder or rebel) camps, General Musharraf added, "Only three to four rebel camps are left. We will wipe them out too." While accusing the tribal leaders of driving 90,000 Baloch people out into other provinces the President, unsurprisingly, did not mention his regime’s errors of omission and commission in Balochistan since 1999.
General Musharraf claimed further that the situation in Balochistan had ‘changed considerably’, and that the Government had converted 25 Districts, which were previously considered ‘B areas’, where the police did not operate, into ‘A areas’, under direct police jurisdiction. [The British colonial administration divided Balochistan into A and B Areas: the former were under direct British control and administration; in the latter, the British exercised proxy control through the Sardars or tribal chiefs. The system was continued after Independence by the Pakistan Establishment]. On March 31, 2004, General Musharraf had declared that the problem with Balochistan was that only five per cent of the territory of the province was 'A area', while 95 per cent was 'B', and that the entire 'B area' would soon be transformed into 'A area'. Three years down the line, the military regime has succeeded in imposing its writ over much of the province, though the insurgency is by no stretch of imagination over.
On the face of it, it is clear that the province has relatively calmed down after the assassination of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti on August 26, 2006. After Bugti’s assassination and till December 31, 2006, thirty-six people, including 28 civilians, died in 128 insurgency-related incidents in Balochistan. Before this, between January 1 and August 26, 2006, approximately 414 persons, including 198 civilians, 134 insurgents and 82 soldiers, had been killed in at least 644 incidents. Violence currently remains at relatively lower levels, with at least 61 persons, including 38 civilians, killed in an estimated 160 insurgency-related incidents in 2007 (till May 31).
Evidently, the insurgency continues to simmer, and other tribal chiefs are yet to give up the cause. There has been a steady stream of bomb and rocket attacks on gas pipelines, railway tracks, power transmission lines, bridges, and communications infrastructure, as well as on military establishments and governmental facilities. Acts of violence are "not confined to a few districts but are taking place in practically all the Baloch Districts including Quetta." Indeed, there has been substantial violence in the provincial capital Quetta, with as many as 38 incidents already recorded in 2007. According to an estimate reported in The News on June 2, 2007, over 100 incidents of bomb explosions and rocket-firing have been reported from Quetta, Mastung, Kalat and Khuzdar during the last five months. As many as 24 persons have died and over have been 150 injured in these incidents since January 2007.
Significantly, the insurgents triggered a series of bomb blasts (some reports mentioned more than 12) at Chaghai, the Federal Government's testing site of a nuclear device on May 28, 1998. The main railway lines between Quetta and the rest of Pakistan were disabled at two points and there were seven blasts in Quetta alone on May 28. Bomb blasts were also reported from Mastung, Khuzdar, Sui, Kohlu and other cities of Balochistan on May 28-29. The Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) claimed responsibility for the attacks and said "these attacks were to remind Punjabi Pakistanis that, we the sons of the soil will not forget the great injustices and especially the nuclear test in the heart of our Fatherland Balochistan… We will avenge and free our country from Pakistani slavery."
Currently, all 27 Districts of Balochistan are affected either by a sub-nationalist tribal insurgency or, separately, by Islamist extremism. Most of the violence in Balochistan is, however, 'nationalist' and there is no co-operation between Islamist militants in pockets in the North and the Baloch nationalist insurgents.
Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and his role in the rebellion is a major element in any narrative on the insurgency in Balochistan. It is now clear that the insurgents erred in their dependency on a single leader. While the risks of co-optation and subjugation by the state exist in the province, it is the absence of a definite second line of leadership that has had the greatest impact on the insurgents. Nevertheless, in recent months, according to journalist Massoud Ansari, "Baloch leaders have tried to buck the trend of historical rivalry in order to target Islamabad as the common enemy. Angry youths from different tribes have come together to take up the gauntlet against the capital. Although not every Baloch is a part of the armed struggle, everyone is seething with anger against what is widely referred to as the ‘Punjab-dominated’ Federal Government." Ansari notes further that "walls across Balochistan today reverberate with graffiti for a ‘Greater Balochistan’. A proposed national anthem for an independent Balochistan is currently in circulation, and parallels are regularly drawn with the rumblings in East Pakistan pre-1971."
Rejecting President Musharraf’s amnesty offer, the outlawed BLA stated on May 22, 2007, that surrender before the state was not acceptable at any cost. The BLA spokesperson, Biburg Baloch, declared further that they were offended by the way Musharraf had been making fun of Baloch people, asking them to surrender their weapons. If the President does not stop underestimating Baloch fighters and spreading disinformation about their cause, Biburg Baloch threatened, he will be killed or "pushed back to India". He emphasised that the BLA was fighting for complete self-rule, and that its leaders and cadre had been annoyed by the President’s public mockery of their struggle when he said that the BLA was gradually giving up arms and joining official ranks. "We warn Musharraf to stop underestimating us. Every Baloch is a part of the BLA and our struggle has greatly expanded across the province."
The BLA spokesperson emphatically rejected the impression that external forces, particularly India or Afghanistan, supported the BLA. "If we had external support, we would not be in such a deplorable condition today. The Government is using brute force against our people. We are resisting the state but if we had assistance, General Musharraf would not dare to step on Baloch land," he noted. He also rejected Islamabad’s claim that the Government had eliminated Baloch fugitive camps, adding that the number of camps was increasing in several parts of Balochistan.
Wadera Alam Khan, another spokesperson for the Baloch insurgents, claimed that, while his organisation had no links with the BLA, all Baloch militant organisations shared a common goal: to provide Balochistan its just rights and resist the use of state force against innocent and unarmed Baloch people. Various organisations like the BLA, Balochistan Liberation Front, Nonial Tigers and Baloch Chappamar Tanzeem are fighting for this common goal, he disclosed, adding, "We will not negotiate with the Government. The Pakistani military should disarm before it asks us to do so. Claims that only a few camps are remaining are baseless. We fired six rockets in Dera Bugti when Musharraf was visiting. Where is the writ of the Government Musharraf is harping about?"
A majority of the insurgents have refused to accept the amnesty offer (actual data regarding the number of surrenders under the amnesty scheme is unavailable) and are determined to continue the rebellion. Nawabzada Brahamdagh Bugti, one of Nawab Akbar Bugti’s grandsons, stated that the amnesty offer would not help end the Baloch resistance, which was bound to spread all over the province: "The Baloch resistance is not confined to just two tehsils [revenue divisions]. Militants are forcefully resisting Government Forces in vast areas of Balochistan." Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo, secretary-general of the National Party, also stated that the Baloch people were offended even at the suggestion of "surrendering arms" and the tone in which General Musharraf had made the offer was insulting. "Such threats are hurled only when someone is fighting a foreign enemy or those who are against the state. This is not the case in Balochistan. People are struggling for their legitimate rights," he said. Habib Jalib, secretary-general of the Balochistan National Party (BNP-Mengal), also rejected the amnesty offer, declaring: "generals who were conducting the military operation should themselves retreat, instead of asking the Baloch people to surrender."
On May 12, 2007, a Daily Times report noted
President Musharraf, it said, has carried out his ‘surgical strikes’ in Balochistan and used religion to rule the province. More pressing developments elsewhere in Pakistan have tended to overshadow the Baloch insurgency in the recent past, but Islamabad is finding it increasingly difficult to crush the rebellion in the province. Even as the military regime claims relative success in Balochistan, the more insidious problem of Islamist extremism in the North West Frontier Province has generated a new crisis for Islamabad. Further, despite constant military operations and Akbar Bugti’s death in August 2006, the insurgents still retain substantial firepower and capacities to take on the might of the state. The levels of violence in Balochistan have diminished significantly, but the present ebb in the insurgency may be a prelude to another surge, as the Baloch groups pull together after the reverses of the recent past.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
May 28-June 3, 2007
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
Maoists kill nine police personnel in Chhattisgarh: On May 28, 2007, nine police personnel were killed and three others sustained injuries in landmine blasts carried out by the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) and the subsequent exchange of fire that lasted an hour, near Kudur village in the Bastar District. The incident occurred when policemen on combing operations were passing through the area. The Maoists looted arms and ammunition, including automatic weapons, from the police before escaping from the incident site. The Hindu, May 29, 2007.
Constituent Assembly elections in November 2007: A meeting of eight political parties on May 31, 2007, decided to hold the Constituent Assembly elections by the third week of November 2007. The meeting also decided that Prime Minister G. P. Koirala will fix the exact date of the elections after consultations with the Election Commission. Nepal News, June 1, 2007.
Lashkar-e-Toiba chief’s brother and family deported from the United States: Hafiz Muhammad Hamid, brother of Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) chief, was deported along with his family from the United States on June 3, 2007. He is expected to arrive in Pakistan on the morning of June 5. Hafiz Hamid was imam (priest) at the Islamic Centre of Greater Worcester, Massachusetts, and had been fighting immigration regulation infringements for the last several months. His other brother, Hafiz Muhammad Masood, is also fighting deportation and is now waiting for the next hearing of a US Federal Immigration Court on October 11, 2007. Hafiz Muhammad Hamid came to the US in 2000 to attend a finance conference organised by the Harvard Programme for Islamic Finance. He stayed on to become the imam of the Worcester mosque. He reportedly worked closely with the Islamic Society of Boston. Before coming to the US, and is believed to have been in charge of the LeT ‘safe house’ at Moon Chowk in Lahore, a "facility" that no longer exists. Daily Times, June 4, 2007.
Corps commanders pledge support for dual office for General Pervez Musharraf: The top Army commanders on June 1, 2007, endorsed the "pivotal role" of General Pervez Musharraf as the President of Pakistan and Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) in the ongoing reforms process in the country. General Pervez Musharraf presided over the 101st Corps Commanders’ Meeting, also attended by all principal staff officers, at the General Headquarters in Islamabad. "The participants reiterated support for the pivotal role of the president and the COAS in the ongoing reform process," the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) stated after the Conference. "The participants reaffirmed Pakistan Army’s support for continuity of the Government’s policies, both internal and external," the ISPR said. Expressing their support to the President, the top Army brass reaffirmed that "Pakistan Army is committed to lending full support towards realisation of the vision set by the President for a dynamic, progressive and moderate Islamic state." Daily Times, June 2, 2007.
Militants kill 13 people in North West Frontier Province: Militants attacked the house of a senior Government official in the Jatai Qala area of Tank District in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) after midnight on May 30 and shot dead 13 people, including two women. Chief of the Gomal Police Station, Sanaullah Marwat, disclosed that militants attacked the house of Amiruddin Khan, the Khyber Tribal Region’s Political Agent, with rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades and assault rifles. He said the militants had come from the adjoining South Waziristan. Amiruddin Khan belongs to a spiritual family of South Waziristan and one of his brothers, Attiqur Rehman, was a pir (someone who is considered to have mystic powers, according to the Sufi tradition) and his actions might have antagonised some people, according to reports. After expulsion from his native area, Pir Attiq shifted to Karachi where he now has a large number of followers. He brings out a magazine, Zarbe Haq, from Karachi to propagate his ideology. Officials said the self-proclaimed pir published editorials and articles in his magazine against militant commander Abdullah Mahsud and described him as an agent of the US. The 40-year-old Pir has been a strong critic of Talibanisation and militancy in the tribal region. Dawn, June 1, 2007.
52 LTTE cadres and 30 soldiers killed in fierce fighting in Vavuniya District: At least 52 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) cadres and 30 soldiers were killed in heavy fighting between troops and the LTTE cadres ahead of the Omanthai FDL (Forward Defence Line) in the Vavuniya District. The LTTE cadres reportedly launched an attack, using artillery and mortars on troops in the area in the evening of June 2. Troops countered the LTTE fire and successfully repulsed the attack. An unspecified number of soldiers and LTTE cadres also sustained injuries in the incident. The Hindu, June 4, 2007.