One of the main contentions of those justifying the killing of SP Tamilselvan, the Head of the LTTE's Political Wing, near Kilinochchi on Friday, is that he was a second line military leader, besides being the political face of the armed rebel group.
"He was definitely a military leader. He was directing the troops and artillery in Muhamalai and Pooneryn," Brig.Udaya Nanayakkara, the Sri Lankan Army's spokesman told Hindustan Times on Sunday.
Sri Lanka is sharply divided on ethnic lines on the issue of the killing of Tamilselvan by the Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF). While the minority Tamils say that Tamilselvan was a political man and therefore not a legitimate target in war, the majority Sinhalas insist that he was actually a military man who had a dual function as a political face of the LTTE.
The defense correspondent of The Nation wrote on Sunday that as per intelligence reports, Tamilselvan was in Pooneryn (across the Jaffna lagoon) on Wednesday "to oversee military operations there."
" Inspite of being Political Commissar, Tamilselvan functioned as a Kattalai Thalapathy or Commanding Officer, during the Unceasing Waves operations in the Thenmaratchy sector. He was also seen in military fatigues in August last year when the LTTE attempted to penetrate Muhamalai," wrote the senior Tamil analyst DBS Jeyaraj in the same weekly paper.
"In recent times, Tamilselvan was in charge of LTTE defenses in Paranthan, Ponnagary (Pooneryn) and Pallavarayankaddu," Jeyaraj added. Tamilselvan flitted between LTTE Chief Velupillai Prabhakaran's command centre and the battle lines, carrying messages and orders, because others means of communications might not be safe.
Talking to Hindustan Times about his interaction with Tamilselvan during the earlier series of talks with the LTTE, a member of the Sri Lankan delegation, Dr.John Gooneratne, said that the leader of the LTTE's delegation, Anton Balasingham, would consult Tamilselvan on military matters. Balasingham was not a military man, and needed the assistance of Tamilselvan and Karuna (who was then still with the LTTE) on military matters.
What was attacked on Friday was a Command and Communications Centre of the LTTE at Thiruvaiyaaru, south-east of the group's political headquarters of Kilinochchi, a place which top military leaders, including Prabhakaran, visited.
On that fateful day, Prabhakaran was not there, but Tamilselvan was. Along with him was the LTTE's communications expert, "Lt Col". Anpumani alias Alex. He was in charge of the strategic communications wing.
In view of the constant air raids, the communications centre had bunkers, and Tamilselvan and his colleagues were in the bunkers when the SLAF's Kfir and MIG 27 jets struck at 6 am with bunker buster bombs, which proved to be deadly.