Attrition: Black Times For Black Tigers


July 10, 2008: The LTTE, an ethnic Tamil separatist movement in Sri Lanka, announced that, in the last year, 34 of their suicide warriors died. Since LTTE began using suicide bombers 21 years, 356 of the "Black Tigers" (as they call their suicidal heroes) have died. Not all the suicide attacks are with bomb vests. Last year, 21 Black Tigers launched a commando attack on a Sri Lankan Air Force base, in order to destroy some well equipped reconnaissance aircraft that were causing the LTTE a lot of problems. All the Black Tigers died, and the government quickly found replacements for the lost aircraft.

There are only a few hundred people in the Black Tiger organization. The Black Tiger suicide bombers are carefully selected, highly motivated and well trained, enabling them to get to heavily guarded targets. The preparations for each attack are extensive. The LTTE will sometimes even conduct research to see what types of bombs work best. In one case, a live dog and goat were strapped into the front seat of a car, and then exposed to a bomb blast in the car to see if the bomb had enough force to kill. The bombers themselves undergo months of training and dry runs before they are turned loose with a live bomb.

Most (65 percent) of the Black Tiger activity took place before the 2002 ceasefire, and most of those took place at sea, as suicide boat attacks sought to discourage the Sri Lankan navy from stopping gunrunners who were keeping the LTTE fighters supplied.

The LTTE practically wrote the book for suicide attacks, making their mark before Hizbollah and al Qaeda went big time with it. The Black Tigers were very successful going after senior officials, taking out an Indian prime minister and a president of Sri Lanka. But their success was their undoing, as the suicide attacks eventually played a large role in getting the LTTE tagged as an international terrorist organization, which made fundraising and obtaining weapons and munitions much more difficult.



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