SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
If such an outcome were to be secured in Iraq or Afghanistan or, now, even in Pakistan, it would be embraced by the West as an unadulterated and righteous triumph. In Sri Lanka, however, it appears to have provoked, across much of Europe and among the most prominent international agencies – including the United Nations (UN) – a seething and barely concealed outrage (Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary General, made a brief and disapproving visit, demanding "immediate and unimpeded" access to all displacement camps). There is a sense, not of a dreaded terrorist organisation having been defeated and destroyed, but of collaborators, comrades, fellows at arms, lost to the enemy.
Significantly, the Sri Lanka Government has now disclosed that certain ‘foreign powers’ had made repeated appeals in the last stage of the war to save Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) chief Velupillai Prabhakaran, as well as some 50 other top terrorists who were ‘seeking to escape’. While the Government has not identified these ‘foreign powers’, one report claims that LTTE’s chief negotiator and the outfit’s international arms dealer, Kumaran Pathmanathan aka KP was in constant touch with "diplomats of at least four western nations, UN functionaries in Geneva and New York, a foreign Cabinet Minister and a few prominent Western journalists", in attempts to get the LTTE leaders out in the dying moments of the war. Efforts to protect LTTE cadres have not yet ended, and there have been numerous attempts to smuggle out particular individuals from the camps currently housing Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), in connivance with various Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) – the principal reason why Ban Ki-moon’s demands for ‘unfettered access’ were summarily rejected by Colombo. Sri Lanka has, however, permitted 52 NGOs to operate inside the camps, though restrictions exist on the movement of vehicles within the camps. Rajiva Wijesinha, the Secretary of the Human Rights Ministry, stated that "Things get complicated when there are too many vehicles running up and down the camps, thereby compromising security." UN’s Colombo spokesperson, Gordon Weiss, confirmed reports that attempts had been made by certain persons to smuggle out groups of IDPs from the camps, prompting the current restrictions. President Mahinda Rajapakse has clarified that all aid workers would be allowed into the camps once the Army has completed operations to clear rebels hiding among the IDPs. Rishard Badurdeen, the Minister for Resettlement, disclosed that "There are some 3,000 LTTE cadres in the camps and we haven’t finished screening." Significantly, Foreign Secretary, Palitha Kohona claimed that some 4,000 former militants had "sneaked in" to the general refugee population. "We will need to see how they will integrate and leave their past behind, or whether they will still harbour thoughts of going back into the jungle. We are just watching them. Many may have been forced to support the Tigers and had not been serious combatants. We would like to give them a chance to quietly reintegrate into society and not rake up their past and make a mess of their lives." Kohona disclosed further that another 2,000 militants who surrendered or were captured were being "rehabilitated" in special facilities.
Significantly, President Mahinda Rajapakse has promised that the entire process of returning and rehabilitating the IDPs to their places of origin in the North would be completed within 180 days, and that "when everybody in the north returns to their homes, they will go back to a place where there is security."
Nevertheless, rather than moving forward from what is certainly an extraordinary victory against terrorism, and on to the tasks of reconstruction and of securing a fair deal for the Tamils in Sri Lanka, many embittered Westerners appear to feel that some vengeance is due against the architects of the campaign that so comprehensively destroyed the LTTE. Moves have been initiated for the UN Human Rights Council to ‘investigate’ human rights violations and ‘war crimes’ during the final phases of the Sri Lankan war against the LTTE in an initiative that, one commentator notes, can only "add to the world’s store of duplicity and hypocrisy". On his part, President Rajapakse has unambiguously dismissed these attempts, declaring, "There are some who tried to stop our military campaign by threatening to haul us before war crimes tribunals. They are still trying to do that, but I am not afraid."
That this was a hard-fought war is inescapable; that it prevailed over one of the most lethal and feared terrorist groups in the world is undeniable; that the end was bloody is, again the stark reality. It is necessary, however, to recall that LTTE terrorism and successive phases of the Eelam War have resulted in, according to the UN, between 80,000 and 100,000 killed over the past over two and a half decades. According to the Sri Lanka Government, this included 23,790 Security Force (SF) personnel, of which 6,262 were killed, and 29,551 were wounded in the offensive between August 2006 and May 17. Earlier, the LTTE had disclosed, in November 2008, that it had lost more than 22,000 cadres since the first guerrilla death in November 1982. The Military Spokesman, Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara disclosed, further, that some 22,000 LTTE fighters had been killed during Eelam War IV, that is, between July 26, 2006 and May 18, 2009. Unofficial and unverified tallies suggest that some 7,000 civilian deaths have occurred in the final phase of fighting, since January 2009. Unverified data complied by the South Asia Terrorism Portal indicates that at least 3,755 SF personnel, 3,209 militants and 11,108 civilians have been killed since January 2, 2009, on which date Kilinochchi was captured by the Army (civilian and SF fatality figures relied largely on pro-LTTE sources such as Tamil Net). With this last carnage, the terror has been brought to an end and the possibility opens out that the bloodshed may now, finally, cease, and that a truly political settlement can now be negotiated among political players.
It was on May 20 that the Sri Lanka military officially ended the war with the LTTE in the Mullaitivu beach area. Earlier, at 1400 hrs of May 18, the Army had announced that the entire Puttumatalan area has been brought under Government control, finally freeing the entire country free from LTTE’s terrorism. The LTTE, which, at one time, controlled over 15,000 square kilometres or nearly one-fourth of the 65,332 square kilometres territory of the island nation, was finally decimated.
Earlier, the Government had announced that the ‘humanitarian mission’ launched to liberate civilians held hostage in a human shield by the LTTE for months, had been brought to an end in the afternoon of May 17 in Mullaitivu. The LTTE ‘international relations’ head, Selvaraja Pathmanathan, in a statement issued from outside Sri Lanka on the same day, stated that the war had reached its bitter end and that the outfit had decided to silence their guns in the interest of saving the lives of innocent Tamil citizens. Subsequently – after initial denials that LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran had been killed – Selvaraja Pathmanathan confirmed in an interview with BBC on May 24, that the Prabhakaran had been killed, and that the LTTE had now "given up violence and agreed to enter a democratic process to achieve the rights for the Tamil (self) determination of our people."
An official announcement made in the afternoon of May 18, 2009, over Rupavahini, the main Government-controlled TV channel, had claimed that the Prabhakaran, LTTE intelligence unit chief Pottu Amman and Sea Tigers’ (sea wing of the LTTE) chief Soosai were killed in the course of an Army attack earlier that morning. Military sources said Prabhakaran was shot dead along with his two deputies as they tried to flee in an ambulance and another van. Subsequent reports, citing Military sources, have, however, suggested that the fate of Pottu Amman remains uncertain, as his body is still to be conclusively identified. According to the reports at least 350 militants, including Charles Anthony, Prabhakaran’s elder son, political unit chief P. Nadesan, the head of the LTTE peace secretariat, S. Pulidevan, and Ramesh, a senior ‘special military’ leader, were killed in the final assault taken by the military. On May 19, Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka had confirmed that Prabhakaran’s body was found near the Nanthikandal lagoon. The Army also reportedly found his identity card, issued by the LTTE, and the armlet with the number one indicating his position in the outfit. While his body has been cremated, some samples have been retained for DNA testing, ‘should the necessity arise’. In an interview with Sunday Rivira newspaper published on May 24 General Fonseka said, "We cremated the body in the same area and threw the ashes into the (Indian) ocean." Prabhakaran's former deputy, Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan aka Karuna, who defected in March 2004 and is currently a Minister in the Rajapakse Government, and the surrendered spokesman of the outfit, Daya Master, were flown to the north-east on May 19, and positively identified their former leader.
On May 19, Tamil Net claimed that Prabhakaran was still ‘alive and safe’. The website quoted K. Pathmanathan as stating, "I wish to inform the Global Tamil community distressed witnessing the final events of the war that our beloved leader Velupillai Prabhakaran is alive and safe….He (Prabhakaran) will continue to lead the quest for dignity and freedom for the Tamil people." Similarly, the Head of the International Secretariat of the Intelligence wing of the LTTE, Arivazhakan, categorically denied the reports that Prabhakaran had been killed and stated, on May 22, "Our beloved leader is alive." With Selvaraja Pathmanathan’s subsequent acceptance that Prabhakaran is dead, this myth-making has been brought to an end.
There are critical lessons in the Sri Lankan experience for a world beleaguered by terrorism. The foremost is that it was the decisive political leadership provided by the Rajapakse Government, which enabled the military to carry out an uninterrupted assault on the Tigers, eventually decimating them, despite intense international pressure. Purely in terms of the military operation, this was the first time in the history of the Eelam Wars the military had been given the mandate to engage in a sustained operations with unambiguous objectives. In this, the Forces adopted a multi-pronged strategy to split the defending Tigers (the LTTE was never able to seize the offensive in Eelam War IV, after it initiated the war in Mavil Aru in July 2006) into different groups by carrying out simultaneous operations from air, sea and ground. The Tigers, depleted in terms of men and weaponry after their loss in the East, proved no match for the highly motivated military, which had procured new weaponry from friendly countries – including India, Pakistan, China and Russia. In the year 2008 alone, the Army had added 40,000 troops, to raise 47 infantry battalions, 13 brigades, four task force contingents and two divisions, and was able to attack the Tigers on multiple fronts, preventing them from thinning out the troops. The Navy, in tandem with ground troops, curtailed the free movement of Sea Tiger boats and prevented LTTE shipments from reaching the Sri Lanka coast, cutting off the external supply of military equipment and essential goods to the LTTE by sea. It was, however, the Sri Lanka Air Force which played a decisive role in weakening the Tigers and destroying whatever weaponry they had accumulated since the cease-fire signed in February 2002. The targeting of the LTTE’s global network [Link: SAIR Volume 6, No. 41, April 21, 2008], moreover, played a decisive role in the LTTE’s defeat.
Summing up the victory mantra, Army Chief Fonseka declared, on May 17, "It is the political leadership with the commitment of the military that led the battle to success…It was never there before to this extent. The military achieved these war victories after President Mahinda Rajapakse came into power. He, who believed that terrorism should and could be eliminated, gave priority to go ahead with our military strategies... The firm decision of the political hierarchy not to go for talks with the LTTE terrorists until they lay down arms had contributed significantly to all these war victories." In an interview published on May 22, President Rajapakse disclosed that the secret of his success was that, unlike others, "I united the Forces and allowed our commanders to fight the battle. I gave them support."
The victory in Sri Lanka has demonstrated that the war against terror can be won with clear commitment and an unremitting offensive against terrorist networks. If the global community learns from this experience, this could have a positive and decisive impact on the meandering trajectory of the US ‘war against terror’.
There is a clear realization in Colombo, however, that the struggle is far from over, that a gigantic task of rehabilitation, of reconciliation and of political settlement remains to be addressed. The most immediate challenge is to provide about 280,000 ethnic displaced Tamils in refugee camps – out of which 200,000 people are located at the refugee camp at Manik Farm in Vavuniya alone – proper relief and living conditions, immediately, and early rehabilitation in their places of origin.
The Government will also have to ensure a political solution to the ethnic problem, something that will require the confidence of the 12 per cent of Sri Lankan Tamils in the country’s population. This will have to be preceded by a measure of trust being created between Tamil and Sinhala. For this to happen, Colombo will have to look for the elusive and long sought-after ‘southern consensus’. The southern consensus which had emerged in October 2006, finally came to a disappointing end on January 29, 2007, with the main opposition group, the United National Party announcement that the political pact it signed with the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party in October 2006 was no longer valid in the aftermath of President Rajapakse’s induction of 19 defectors from the UNP into the Government. Later, on December 12, 2007, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress leader Rauff Hakeem stated that he and three other Parliamentarians had decided to leave the Government as it had failed to guarantee the rights of the Muslim community. These developments were a major setback to the Rajapakse regime which had, in the fag end of 2006, secured the support of Southern political parties to deal with the LTTE.
Another major challenge is presented by the often aggressive Tamil Diaspora – and widespread protests and some violent demonstrations in various Western cities in the wake of the LTTE’s defeat have underlined the urgency of this problem. While Pathmanathan has now declared the LTTE’s intention to join the ‘democratic process’, it remains necessary to factor in a May 16 report, which cites Italian intelligence sources regarding a satellite phone conversation between Prabhakaran and Kumaran Pathmanathan, instructing the latter to take over leadership of the LTTE if ‘circumstances’ demanded, and urging him to ‘carry on the struggle since the conditions are good for the Eelam struggle internationally’. Voice matching software had confirmed that the voice was Prabakaran’s, according to the report. There are also clear indications that Tamils in both Britain and Canada have vowed to continue the LTTE’s struggle. In both these countries – home to some of the largest concentrations of Sri Lankan Tamils abroad – Tamils are mobilizing to play a part in what local leaders describe as a new phase in their struggle for an independent homeland. Suren Surendiran, a spokesman for the British Tamils Forum, an umbrella organization, claims that, in the longer term, the events of recent weeks have even further radicalized the younger generation of Tamils abroad: "The first phase of the fight for freedom, from 1948 to 1983, was about political negotiations. Then, the armed struggle from 1983 until last week ensured that the oppression and discrimination of Tamil people was highlighted on an international stage… Second generation Tamils who were born overseas have now become separatists in a way that they were probably not before." The risk of Diaspora elements linking up with surviving LTTE cadres to once again threaten security and peace in the North and elsewhere in Sri Lanka cannot entirely be written off. The Government has already announced its intention of establishing new Police Stations in the North to address security concerns. In the East, moreover, where a few LTTE militants have reportedly infiltrated, the troops are carrying out intensive search and clear operations. Elsewhere in the country, the SFs have stepped up their vigil to locate and apprehend surviving LTTE cadre.
Critically, however, President Rajapakse appears to have made clear declarations in seeking an inclusive solution to the country’s ethnic crisis. While announcing the LTTE’s defeat in Parliament on May 19, he declared:
To meet the first challenge of resettlement of displaced persons the President, by virtue of powers vested in him by Article 33 (f) of the Constitution, has appointed a 19-member Presidential Task Force for Resettlement, Development and Security in the Northern Province. It is mandated to prepare strategic plans, programs and projects to resettle internally displaced persons, and to rehabilitate and develop economic and social infrastructure of the Northern Province. Other activities commissioned to the Task Force include:
The Presidential directive appointing the Task Force dated May 7 required it to complete its mandate and report to the President within one year. The Gazette containing this directive was published on May 13. The Government has also defined its 180-day Plan to deal with the resettlement issue.
In addition, President Rajapakse has reiterated his Government’s commitment to a political solution to address the grievances of the Tamil people in the country, declaring, "I am committed to implementing the 13th amendment dealing with devolution of powers and willing to go even a step further. That step we can discuss and negotiate with political leaders." Earlier, on April 3, an unnamed official said that the report of the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) would soon be released to all political parties. The APRC report is a document which recommends the full implementation of the 13th amendment as well as certain additional power devolution. The proposal for a constitutional court has also been discussed. The APRC was mandated by President Mahinda Rajapakse to prepare a set of proposals that would be the basis for a solution to the national question. Over the past two years, 120 APRC sessions, chaired by Science and Technology Minister Professor Tissa Vitharana, have been held. The main opposition UNP, the Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna and the Tamil National Alliance, however, refrained from participating in the APRC sessions. The President has, however, approached the TNA twice and has also recently convened a meeting of Tamil parties along with other political parties. A number of ‘non-participating parties’ are also said to be interested in studying the APRCs recommendations.
On May 21, the Sri Lankan High Commissioner to India, C.R. Jaisinghe, stated that the Rajapakse Government was planning to hold provincial elections in the Tamil-dominated areas freed from LTTE control. "Our country is now free of terror. The President has already made it clear that the concerns of the Tamil Diaspora will be addressed. We will hold provincial council elections in the northern region."
Meanwhile, several countries, prominently including India, Australia, Japan, Vietnam and China, have already committed substantial aid for Sri Lanka. While India has prepared an INR 5 billion rehabilitation package for the displaced people in Sri Lanka, in addition to an earlier INR 1 billion relief package by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and INR 250 million aid given by the Tamil Nadu Government. Similarly, the Australian Government will provide an estimated AUD 35.6 million in development assistance to Sri Lanka in 2009-10, including up to AUD 7 million for work at the community level to assist with rehabilitation, primarily across northern and eastern Sri Lanka. Australia has already committed over AUD 23.5 million for humanitarian activities in Sri Lanka since December 2008. In the meanwhile, the United States and Britain are trying to stall a USD 1.9 billion bailout package that Sri Lanka is seeking from the International Monetary Fund. In response, the Sri Lanka Central Bank Governor, Nivard Cabraal, told reporters that the Government was working on "Plan B, Plan C and Plan D".
The end of the war in Sri Lanka marks the beginnings of a new struggle to secure an equitable political order and justice for the Tamil people within a non-discriminatory Constitutional framework. There are indications that the national leadership is conscious of these imperatives, though it remains to be seen how completely and honestly current commitments are implemented. On this will depend the future peace and prosperity of Sri Lanka. Despite decades of war, living standards in the country have remained well above the South Asian mean, and the country has tremendous potential for rapid development. The realization of this potential will depend, equally, on the willingness of the surviving LTTE leadership to firmly and irrevocably abandon an attempt to revive the destructive politics of terrorism.
Velupillai Prabhakaran, for all the adulation he inspires
among sections of the Tamil community, particularly
the Diaspora (and a sneaking admiration among at least
some in the West), he will surely be remembered among
the great monsters of human history.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
May 18-24, 2009
National probe committee on BDR mutiny finds no militant, political and foreign links: The National Probe Committee on Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) mutiny did not find any militant, political or foreign links to the carnage at Pilkhana headquarters. "BDR jawans committed the murders on their own. Our investigation did not find any involvement of outsiders – political leaders, militants or foreign forces," an unnamed member of the Government probe body disclosed on May 21, 2009. According to the 309-page inquiry report submitted to Home Minister Sahara Khatunon on May 21, the BDR rank and file already had grievances pent up for years. It also said the mutiny was a continuation of the revolts in 1973 and 1991 over leadership in the border force. Meanwhile, some unidentified sources close to the Committee said that several BDR personnel had claimed the mutiny was part of their movement against discrimination by the Army officers deputed to BDR. In its report, the Committee recommends that those responsible be tried under the Military Act for a speedy trial. It also suggests that BDR personnel should not be engaged in programmes like 'Operation Dal-Bhat', which was introduced to contain price hike of essential commodities during the caretaker Government’s rule. It also advised a further inquiry into the claims of foreign links. The Daily Star, May 22, 2009.
16 Police personnel killed in Maoist attack in Maharashtra: 16 Police personnel, including five women constables, were killed during a three-hour long encounter with a group of armed Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres near the hills of Hatti Tola in Gadchiroli District on May 21, 2009. The encounter took place when a team of a 16-member Police party led by Inspector Ashok Aiyyar was busy in clearing the Dhanora-Murumgaon road of the District, which had been blocked by the CPI-Maoist by felling trees during their two-day long bandh (general shutdown) call from May 20 in the Bhandara, Gondia and Gadchiroli areas. After killing all 16 Police personnel, the Maoists looted their arms and ammunition and set ablaze the two Police vehicles. A group of more than 70 Maoists, who were camping near Tabitola village, bordering the State of Chhattisgarh, opened fire on the Police personnel and triggered landmine blasts later, Superintendent of Police Rajesh Pradhan said. More than five dalams (squads) of Maoists, armed with AK-47 rifles and other sophisticated weapons, attacked the Police team, which was reportedly taken completely by surprise. This is the first time women constables have been killed in a clash between Maoists and the Police. Times of India, May 22, 2009.
Madhav Kumar Nepal elected as Prime Minister: Madhav Kumar Nepal of the Communist Party of Nepal – United Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) will be sworn-in as the Prime Minister of Nepal on May 25, 2009, after being elected unopposed on May 23. Meanwhile, the CPN-UML's Standing Committee has decided to constitute a committee to hold consultations with leaders of allied parties regarding portfolios, and to work out the Common Minimum Programme, party leader Shanker Pokharel told PTI. The party has appealed to all political outfits to extend cooperation to the new Government to complete the peace process and to draft a new constitution. The Hindu, May 25, 2009.
More than 200 people killed in NWFP during the week: Troops have secured several important areas in Mingora, including a crossing infamous for beheadings carried out by the Taliban, said Security Forces (SFs) on May 24, 2009, as the military killed another 10 militants in various areas of Swat District. The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said 10 militants and three soldiers were killed in gun-battles in various areas of Swat, while 14 militants were arrested.
17 Taliban militants, including a ‘commander’, were killed at Mingora in Swat on May 23, military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said. He said the troops had secured a part of the city from the Circuit House to Makan Bagh. Battles to secure Nawan Killi have begun and a link up between forces coming from Fiza Ghat to Whataki Chowk and Ayub Bridge to Nawan Killi has been completed. Intense clashes were reported from Nishat Chowk in Mingora. Further, a suicide bomber was shot dead and an explosives-laden vehicle was destroyed in Makanzai area of the city.
17 militants and three SF personnel were killed and ten SF personnel sustained injuries during fighting in various areas of Swat District on May 22. According to an official announcement, troops are consolidating their positions and expanding their control over the valley. The SFs are reported to have secured militants’ strongholds in Takhtaband village and Qambar. During an encounter between the two sides, eight militants and one soldier were killed and six SF personnel were wounded.
SFs said on May 21 that ‘a number of Taliban’ – including an important commander – and five soldiers were killed in the preceding 24 hours in Swat. "An important ... [Taliban] commander, Abu Tariq, was killed and seven Taliban were apprehended… A number of Taliban were killed, while five soldiers also died in Kanju and Takhtaband area," the ISPR said.
19 people, including 11 suspected militants and three SF personnel, were killed in the ongoing military operation and a roadside blast in the Maidan area of Dir Lower District on May 21. Sources said two SF personnel, identified as Captain Omarzeb and Lance Naik Shahzad Alam, were killed and two others sustained injuries when a military convoy was attacked with a remote-controlled bomb in the Shahi Koto area of Maidan. Subsequent to the blast, SFs opened fire, killing four persons and injuring two children. Further, one trooper, Mehboob, was killed during the search operation in the Kumbar area. Four militants were also killed in the search operation. Further, during clashes in the Nanbati and Kalpani areas, seven militants were killed, while a soldier sustained injuries. In addition, a man was shot dead in Chakdara for violating curfew.
SFs have completely secured the Sultanwas area of Buner District, overcoming tough resistance and killing 80 militants, Director General of the ISPR, Major General Athar Abbas said in Islamabad on May 20. "Since Tuesday morning to the completion of operation before dawn, 80 militants have been killed," Abbas told a press briefing. However, he said there was no independent confirmation of the casualties due to the ground situation in the area. Sultanwas was the main stronghold of the militants in Buner, where they had made concrete underground bunkers and ammunition dumps.
A Major and three soldiers were killed in Swat as SFs killed 16 Taliban militants in fierce street battles in the preceding 24 hours, Daily Times reported on May 20. With the area surrounded by the SFs, Major Abid was hit in an exchange of fire with the Taliban inside Matta. "Operation Rah-e-Rast is making headway as planned, and in last 24 hours, 16 Taliban were killed ... an officer and three soldiers also died," the ISPR disclosed. 27 militants were killed as the SFs started a ground offensive in Swat on May 18. Three important commanders, including Okasha, Malanga and Riaz, were among the 27 militants killed during the operation that has now been named as Rah-e-Rast, military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas informed the media. He said Mamdherai Markaz was targeted by the SFs and 10 to 15 terrorists hiding inside were killed. He also said three SF personnel, including an officer, were also killed and 17 others injured during the fighting. Abbas stated that the SFs were engaged with militants inside Kanju town to clear the area and an operation was underway in Takhtaband area, where seven combatants were killed in a close encounter. According to him, SFs had also expanded their foothold in Peuchar and killed 12 militants in the area. The troops also attacked and secured the Dumber training centre, which was being used by militants as their logistics base. Meanwhile, several persons, including women and children, were killed and a number of others sustained injuries when families fleeing the military operation in Swat District’s Matta town were shelled while crossing a mountainous path to reach Karo Darra in Dir Upper District on May 18. Dawn; Daily Times; The News, May 19-25, 2009.
31 militants among 44 persons killed in FATA during the week: Fighter jets and helicopter gunships targeted Taliban hideouts in the Orakzai Agency of FATA on May 24, 2009, with the AP news agency reporting at least 18 people killed in the offensive. AP quoted a Government official as saying that the targets were strongholds of Hakeemullah Mehsud, a deputy to Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud. Hundreds have reportedly fled the area amid the fighting.
At least nine persons – four civilians and five Security Force personnel – were killed and 25 injured in a suicide attack near a Frontier Corps (FC) fort in the Jandola area of Tank in the evening of May 21. According to a private TV channel, an explosives-laden truck rammed into the FC camp, damaging several nearby shops and the fort.
On May 19, SFs claimed to have killed 13 militants and arrested five foreign combatants in an encounter near Khapakh check-post in the Halimzai sub-division of Mohmand Agency. A spokesman for the Mohmand Rifles Media Centre said SFs arrested five Burqa (veil)-clad foreign militants when they were trying to infiltrate into Afghanistan via the Pakistan-Afghanistan route. Following their arrest, the spokesman said local militants attacked the Khapakh security checkpoint with sophisticated weapons from all sides. He said SFs repulsed the attack and killed 13 militants in the ensuing three-hour encounter. "Three of the arrested militants belong to Saudi Arabia and one each to Libya and Afghanistan," the spokesman added.
The Taliban in Mohmand Agency on May 18 announced they had killed two soldiers of the paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC), who were in their custody, and threatened to execute the remaining four if the Government failed to meet their demand for an exchange of prisoners. Ikramullah, a spokesman for the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Mohmand Agency chapter, told The News by phone from an undisclosed location that Sepoy Imran was executed on May 17 while Sepoy Zari Badshah was killed on May 18. He said the bodies of the two men were left on Qandaharo Road in Mohmand Agency. Dawn; Daily Times; The News, May 19-25, 2009.
Iraq Al Qaeda commanders in Pakistan, indicate intelligence agencies: The Government has directed law-enforcement agencies to arrest seven "highly trained militants and Al Qaeda masterminds from Iraq" who – according to reports by intelligence agencies – have entered Pakistan. According to an official document BBC Urdu claimed it had received, those who have entered Pakistan are planning to train ‘like-minded people’ and target key Government officials, including President Asif Ali Zardari, the Chief Ministers of the four provinces and intelligence agencies’ officers and commanders. The group could also target embassies of non-Muslim and pro-US Muslim countries in Islamabad. The intelligence report also said that Al Qaeda commanders met in Afghanistan’s Paktia province on May 3, 2009, and decided they would continue supporting the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. Daily Times, May 21, 2009.
1050 persons killed in 671 terrorist incidents in 2008-09 in NWFP: According to official figures, as many as 1,059 persons, including Security Force personnel and civilians, were killed in 671 terrorist incidents, which also included suicide attacks, in the NWFP from 2008 till March 25, 2009. During 2008, a total 524 incidents, including 30 suicide attacks, were reported. In these attacks 146 Policemen, 32 Frontier Corps (FC) personnel, 76 Army/SF officials and 595 civilians were killed while 1,962 were injured. In the first four months of 2009, as many as 140 incidents of terrorism and seven suicide attacks were carried out. These incidents claimed 26 lives of Police officials, nine of FC personnel, 12 of Army/SFs and 126 civilian, while 771 people were injured. The office of the Additional Inspector General of Police (Investigation) NWFP revealed that Police foiled 94 terrorist attacks in 2008 and five in 2009. They recovered 52,408 kilograms of explosive materials, 23 suicide jackets, 729 hand grenades/dynamite packs, detonators and anti-tank mines and 134 rocket launchers, bombs, missiles and mortar shells. The News, May 19, 2009.
Military ceremonially ends the war with the LTTE: The Sri Lankan military on May 20, 2009, ceremonially ended the war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) at the Mullaitivu beach area. Defence sources said the Army formally silenced their guns in the afternoon in a military ceremony, headed by Major General Jagath Jayasuriya and in the presence of commanders of all units.
Meanwhile, according to a May 19 Sri Lanka Army report, about 350 dead bodies of militants who died in the final assault had been recovered by the Security Forces (SFs) since May 17. The bodies recovered and identified included that of outfit’s chief Velupillai Prabhakaran, Air Wing chief Charles Anthony (elder son of Prabhakaran), Sea Tiger (sea wing of the LTTE) leader "Brigadier" Soosai, political wing leader B. Nadesan, head of LTTE’s peace secretariat S. Pulidevan and many other leaders.
Further, 29 LTTE militants were killed during the week. SFs shot dead five militants in the Periyapillumalai area of Batticaloa District in the morning of May 20. Army troops on patrol in the Kanchikudichchiaru area of Ampara District shot dead three militants. 10 LTTE militants were killed by Army troops in the Kadawana jungle area of Trincomalee District in the afternoon of May 21. Three senior militants, identified as Sathyan Master, Kanthan and Oviyan, were among those killed. On the same day, Army troops recovered dead bodies of six militants during search and clear operations in the Vellamullivaikkal area of Mullaitivu District. Troops also found five decomposed bodies of militants along with three I-com sets, two pistols and two magazines from the Mullaitivu area on May 22. Sri Lanka Army; Daily News; Tamil Net; Colombo Page, May 19 -25, 2009.
Prabhakaran is dead, admits LTTE: The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has admitted for the first time that their chief Velupillai Prabhakaran is dead. In a telephone interview with BBC published on May 24, 2009, the head of the outfit’s international relations, Selvarasa Pathmanathan, said Prabhakaran had died on May 17 but did not give details of the circumstances. He also said that the outfit would now use non-violent methods to fight for the rights of Tamils. "We have already announced that we have given up violence and agreed to enter a democratic process to achieve the rights for the Tamil (self) determination of our people," he said. Most of the LTTE senior leadership is believed to have been killed in the fighting. In addition, in a statement signed by Pathmanathan the outfit said their "incomparable leader" had "attained martyrdom" and declared a week of mourning starting on May 25. The statement said he was killed "fighting the military oppression of the Sri Lankan Government" on May 17. The statement called on Tamils all over the world to "refrain from harmful acts to themselves or anyone else in this hour of extreme grief."
Meanwhile, Defence Spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said on May 23 that the Government has retained samples of body-parts of Prabhakaran for DNA tests before he was cremated on May 20 in Mullaitivu. He said the Government was prepared to conduct a DNA test should the necessity arise. "The defence establishment, however, has no doubts that he is dead," he said. Minister Rambukwella said the fate of Prabhakaran’s wife and two younger children remained a mystery. "It is not clear if they were caught up in the battle or residing overseas," he said. It was earlier reported that they have also been killed. BBC, May 24, 2009.
Over 6,000 soldiers killed in the last phase of war: More than 6,000 Sri Lankan Security Force (SF) personnel were killed and nearly 30,000 personnel were wounded during the last three years due to the fighting against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). In an interview with the state-owned television Rupavahini on May 22, 2009, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse said 6,261 SF personnel, Policemen and paramilitary guards were killed and 29,551 injured in the offensive which commenced in August 2006 and concluded on May 17, 2009. He also said that since 1981 a total of 23,790 SF personnel, Policemen and women and paramilitary guards had been killed in the war. Though he did not give casualty figures for the LTTE, Reuters quoted military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara as saying that troops killed 22,000 LTTE fighters during Eelam War IV. The LTTE in November 2008 had said that they had lost more than 22,000 cadres since the first guerrilla death in November 1982. The United Nations this week said the conflict had killed between 80,000-100,000 people since it erupted into full-scale civil war in 1983 – including unofficial and unverified tallies showing 7,000 civilian deaths since January 2009.
Meanwhile, according to top military officials, over 10,000 LTTE militants have surrendered to the military. Officials said over 2,379 of them were identified by the military. While over 7,237 of these militants, including 1,601 females, who had surrendered to the military, are now being rehabilitated at various rehabilitation centres, another batch of 202 militants, including 80 males, is living in the Internally Displaced Persons camps. According to officials, these 202 militants were identified by the military and separated from the refugees in the welfare camps. "They surrendered to the troops when the military offensives got tough. The 202 terrorists, including females, are well trained LTTE terrorists", they said. Over 2,065 of these cadres said that they surrendered to the troops at the Forward Defence Lines as they were disillusioned with their leadership. Sunday Observer; Colombo Page, May 23 -24, 2009.