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Suicide blast, LTTE?s best weapon

The LTTE is also the pioneer, and to date, the only practitioner of the method, writes PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Apr 27, 2006 14:21 IST

The suicide bomber has been the LTTE's most potent weapon in its struggle to establish an independent "Tamil Eelam" in the North and East of Sri Lanka.

The LTTE is also the pioneer, and to date, the only practitioner of the method of suicide bombing in the troubled island.

Terror groups like the LTTE, see suicide bombing as the best means to get close to the target and ensure that he or she is killed.

This is because the killer need not worry about getting away or being caught. He will be dead anyway.

Suicide bombing has a strong ideological undertone. Through suicide, the group acquires the laudable image of being a "self sacrificing" group, craving for martyrdom.

For the LTTE, suicide bombing has been the preferred method for assassinations, though Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar was killed by a sniper, and Deputy Defense Minister Ranjan Wijeratne was killed by a remote controlled car bomb.

Here is a list of high profile killings generally believed to have been done by the LTTE. As a matter of policy, the group never claims or owns up its involvement in such acts. 

List of killings

1) The Sri Lankan Deputy Defense Minister Ranjan Wijeratne was the first target. Killed by a remote controlled car bomb in Colombo on March 2, 1991.

The tough talking and tough acting Wijeratne had vowed to finish the "Tigers" after they broke away from peace talks and massacred 600  policemen in cold blood to begin Eelam II in June 1990.

2) Former Indian Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition Rajiv Gandhi was killed in Sriperumbudur near Chennai on May 21, 1991 by a female suicide bomber.

Rajiv Gandhi was the first and so far, the only, foreign leader to be killed by the LTTE. It was the first time that the LTTE had used a suicide bomber and a female at that.

The LTTE feared that Gandhi might come back as Prime Minister in the 1991 parliamentary elections and send the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) into Sri Lanka again.

The LTTE was mortally afraid of the IPKF, which had cornered it between 1988 and 1990.

3) The Commander of the Sri Lankan Navy, Vice Admiral Clancy Fernando was killed in Colombo on November 17, 1992 by a motorcycle-borne suicide bomber.

Adm.Fernando had made the Sri Lankan Navy a major factor in the war against the separatist Tigers. The LTTE needed control of the coastline, as it was dependent on supplies from across the world following the withdrawal of Indian support as a result of the India-Sri Lanka Accord of July 1987 and the clash between the IPKF and the Tigers between October 1987 and March 1990.

4) President Ranasinghe Premadasa was killed in Colombo by a bicycle-borne suicide bomber at a "May Day" procession in Colombo in 1993.

In 1988-89, Premadasa had promised to settle the Tamil problem to the satisfaction of the Tigers.

But it soon became clear to the Tigers that, like them, he was only interested in using the peace talks to get the IPKF out of Sri Lankan soil. 

5) Presidential hopeful and United National Party leader Gamini Dissanayake was killed in Colombo on October 24, 1994 by a suicide bomber.

The LTTE saw Dissanayake as a patently pro-India man, who might get India back into Sri Lanka as a major player, both politically and militarily, in the ethnic conflict in the island. 

6) Leading Tamil human rights worker and constitutional expert Neelan Tiruchelvam was killed in Colombo on July 29,1999 by a suicide bomber.

Tiruchelvam had helped President Chandrika Kumaratunga draft a devolution package, which would have turned Sri Lanka into a federal state and thus satisfied the majority of Tamils, who did not fancy an independent Tamil Eelam, which the LTTE was fighting for.

7) An abortive attempt on the life of President Chandrika Kumaratunga was made by a female suicide bomber in Colombo on December 18, 1999. Kumaratunga lost an eye in the blast.

Kumaratunga had been conducting a "War for Peace" since 1995, which had seized Jaffna from the LTTE and was threatening its bases in the Wanni. She was set to come back in the December 1999 Presidential election.

8) Top cabinet minister CV Gooneratne, killed in Colombo on June 7, 2000 by a suicide bomber.

The attack was seen as being part of the on-going LTTE campaign to demoralise the Sri Lankan polity.

9) Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar was shot dead by sniper in Colombo on August 12, 2005.

Kadirgamar had earned the wrath of the LTTE by spearheading the Sri Lankan government's campaign to isolate it in the international arena and get it banned in as many countries as possible.

Kadirgamar was also seen as a friend of India.

10) A female suicide bomber made an attempt on the life of the Army Commander Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka in Colombo on April 25,2006. He escaped, though with serious injuries.

Gen.Foneska was cast in the mould of Ranjan Wijeratne, a tough man with a mission to break the back of the LTTE.

While being Commander of the Security Forces in Jaffna, he had fiercely resisted the LTTE's attempts to dismantle the High Security Zones (HSZ) there.

Fonseka felt that if the HSZs had been rolled back, the LTTE would have got easy access to key military installations including the only air field in the peninsula, at Palaly.

Jaffna, which had been captured in 1995 from the LTTE, would have gone back to it, but for Fonseka's tough posture.