LTTE perfects suicide bombing
The LTTE brazenly declares that suicide bombers are the main weapons in their armoury, writes PK Balachandran.india Updated: Jul 10, 2006 13:57 IST
But because of the numbness created by a continuous war, the event had begun to be ignored except by the Sri Lankan Tamil media.
This year, however, has been perceptibly different.
The non-Tamil local and international media have featured it with grisly pictures of hooded men and women parading in the open, signifying a new awareness and reflecting a new reality - the reality of Sri Lanka's being on the verge of another full-scale war after four years of relative peace.
The dreaded Black Tiger, the LTTE's suicide cadre with high explosives strapped around his or her waist, seemed to be at one's doorstep here in Colombo again.
There had been two suicide attacks in and around Colombo with high personages as the targets, since April end.
"Black Tigress" Manjula Devi, had blown herself up deep inside the Army HQ, seriously injuring the Army chief, Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka on April 25.
And on June 26, the third in command, Maj Gen Parami Kulatunga, was killed by a motorcycle borne bomber in the suburb of Pannipitiya.
And then came July 5, when the top leaders of the LTTE brazenly declared that suicide bombers were the main weapons in their armoury.
The Black Tigers' contribution to the advancement of the armed struggle for an independent Tamil Eelam was extolled both by the leaders and the Tamil print media.
The rationale for using suicide bombings and the cold calculation of their value in military terms, were explained, so that people did not get away with the impression that the suicide cadres were only mindless instruments of terror, and that suicide bombing was nothing but senseless heroics.
Many in Colombo remembered the writings of leading Sri Lankan defence analysts like Iqbal Athas, which warned that if "Eelam War IV" was to begin, the LTTE could conduct multiple suicide attacks in the capital to demoralise the state.
There were warnings from friendly countries that vital economic targets like the harbour could be attacked, and that there was no credible military defence against such attacks.
Colombo was, therefore, strongly advised to rapidly go in for a system of power sharing with the Tamils of the North East, which was both sincere and realistic.
Sri Lankans were dismayed that the international community should render homilies to their government when the target of wrath should have been the LTTE, the perpetrators of the suicide bombings and wanton attacks on civilians and the armed forces.
But then the world thought that the answer to the bombings was not more violence and war, but a systemic correction with drastic changes in governance, which would at once obviate war and terrorism and secure long-standing peace.
The LTTE is not the originator of suicide bombing. In his paper in the Australia/Israel Jewish Affairs Council's journal The Review dated September 2001, Yoram Schweitzer of the Israel-based International Policy Institute for Counter Terrorism, says that modern suicide bombing was introduced by the Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah in 1983 in Lebanon.
The Hezbollah's 50 suicide bombings in Lebanon proved their effectiveness by hastening the withdrawal of foreign forces from that country, Schweitzer notes.
The Hezbollah became a model for other terrorist groups as suicide bombings became both a symbol of sacrifice and an effective instrument against an overwhelmingly strong enemy.
According to Schweitzer, by the middle of 2001, 17 terrorist groups across the globe had conducted over 300 suicide bombings.
When they first appeared, security experts were "stunned" says Ehud Sprinzak, Dean of the Lauder School of Government, Policy and Diplomacy at the Interdisciplinary Centre in Herzliya, Israel.
Listing the advantages of suicide bombing in a paper in the September/ October 2000 issue of Foreign Policy Sprinzak says: "It is a simple, low-cost operation (requiring no escape routes or complicated rescue operations); it guarantees mass casualties and extensive damage (since the suicide bomber can choose the exact time, location and circumstances of the attack); there is no fear that interrogated terrorists will surrender important information (because their deaths are certain); it has immense impact on the public and the media (due to the overwhelming sense of helplessness."
Sprinzak quotes Dr.Ramadan Shalak, Secretary General of the Palestinian Islamic Jehad, as saying: "Our enemy possesses the most sophisticated weapons in the world and its army is trained to a very high standard.
We have nothing with which to repel the killing and thuggery against us except the weaponry of martyrdom. It is easy and costs us only our lives. Human bombs cannot be defeated even by nuclear bombs."
LTTE single largest user
The LTTE may not have begun suicide bombing, but it certainly has been the single largest and the most systematic user of the grisly technique.
From 1987 on, it has reportedly lost 273 Black Tigers. This indicates 273 bombings, as not a single bomber has been caught alive.
Given the importance of suicide bombing in its arsenal, the LTTE appears to be the only group to have systematized the training and techniques of suicide bombers.
The group is reported to have about 500 trained cadres now. They wear military uniforms and parade about as a regular unit of the LTTE army. No other group in the world does this.
The suicide cadres are carefully chosen on the basis of their commitment to the cause, intelligence, and the ability to penetrate an alien society and stay put under hostile and sensitive conditions till the right moment to strike comes.
As V Balakumar, a key LTTE motivator put it, the suicide cadre, man or woman, has to be a linguist, know a variety of trades, and should be able to merge imperceptibly in a different culture and stay put there indefinitely.
The Black Tiger is by no means an unintelligent robot motivated only by emotion, ideology, fanatical devotion to a leader or a religious ideology.
He is a deadly mix of cold calculation, intense commitment to the cause, fanatical faith in a leader, innovative ability, unflappability in the hour of danger, and above all, sheer guts.
Manjula Devi, who had tried to kill Gen.Fonseka, was staying with a Sinhala family to avoid detection. She spoke and read Sinhala. And she was absolutely normal when she set out to blow herself up that fateful day.
In the Rajiv Gandhi case, Subha, the companion of the suicide bomber Dhanu, broke down as the day of the killing approached. But Dhanu herself was stoic and cool right through..
The bomber is a product and an integral part of a group headed by trainers and handlers, who themselves are cold and calculating, even as they are tremendously motivated.
Many of the recruits are from families, which have suffered at the hands of the adversary. Rajiv Gandhi's killer Dhanu was said to have been raped by IPKF soldiers.
Others are committed "Eelamites" and fanatic devotees of the Supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran.
Intense indoctrination of young recruits in the LTTE's camps and other institutions, is also a major contributor, though LTTE leaders deny this.
The suicide bombers vary in age. Many are in their twenties. But Manjula Devi was said to be 34.