Sri Lanka: Death Watch or Death Match?

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July 1, 2008: The army believes it has killed about 4,500 LTTE rebels during the first six months of the year, while losing about one tenth that number. In the last three years, since the fighting resumed, over 10,000 people have died (plus another 60,000 between 1983-2002). Since the army went on the offensive two years ago, they have lost about 1,700 dead and 4,000 wounded. The army believes they have killed or captured some 9,000 LTTE fighters in that period. Some of those captured were actually deserters, who are a good source of info on what is happening in LTTE territory.

The generals now believe the LTTE is in a death spiral, but still capable to doing a lot of damage if the army gets sloppy. The LTTE maintain a reserve of a hundred or more suicide bombers, plus several hundred trained and loyal commandos.  So the deliberate, carefully planned attacks on LTTE bunkers continues, capturing a few square kilometers of LTTE territory a week. In this way, the army now believes it will take about a year to recapture all the LTTE controlled territory in the north and shatter (but not totally destroy) the LTTE. The government assumes that the LTTE will continue as a terrorist organization, trying to maintain bases among radical Tamils living in southern India (where Tamils have lived for thousands of years).

Because the rebels have ruled these northern  areas of Sri Lanka for some two decades, they are well organized to defend it. But more and more of the civilians living there (about 400,000 Tamils) are sneaking away, and into government controlled territory. Apparently the LTTE has mobilized everyone and everything for what appears to be a "last stand." Most of the Tamils in the north don't want to be part of that, but opposing the LTTE can get you killed. So those who can, are fleeing. Because of this aggressive recruiting (usually, men and women are just conscripted), the LTTE still have about 5,000 people under arms. But most are poorly trained, led largely via threats to themselves and their families and suffering from low morale. There is little ammo, because of the navy blockade and the destruction of most of the LTTE boats. The government artillery and air force are finding more targets, thanks to the interrogation of captured or deserted LTTE fighters, and the long range army patrols inside LTTE territory.

By containing the LTTE to a small portion of the northern coast, the rest of the country has prospered. GDP was up 6.8 percent last year, and is headed for a seven percent increase this year.

June 23, 2008: After months of effort, the government finally got the LTTE television channel, Tharisanam Television, taken off a European satellite. The government expects the propaganda and funding raising program to show up via another satellite. There are so many satellite channels out there, and so many of them specializing in ethnic programming, that it's difficult to let everyone know that outfits like Tharisanam Television are just there to support, and raise money for, a bunch of terrorists.

 

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