Sri Lanka: Cheap Kills

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August 10, 2008:  The LTTE is losing the support of expatriate Sri Lankan Tamils. Even in India, where the Tamils originally came from, more and more LTTE operatives are being hunted down and arrested. In the last two years, India has arrested 55 LTTE operatives. In the last week, key members of a gunrunning operation were arrested. In Europe, there are now public demonstrations against the LTTE, something that would have been impossible a few years ago, because LTTE enforcers were present to punish those Tamils who were "unpatriotic."

The casualties have been low this year (a few hundred dead and wounded a week), but consistently in favor of the army (about ten LTTE dead for each government one). Every week, the LTTE loses ground. Three years ago, the LTTE controlled over fifteen percent of Sri Lanka, now they have only about six percent (4,000 square kilometers). The Tamil population in this area numbers about 200,000 (a little over one percent of the national population). The government continues to allow food and other supplies to pass into LTTE controlled territory, as it always has, and the LTTE tries to force civilians to move with them when the army advances into LTTE territory. Last month, over 60,000 civilians (mostly Tamils) fled their homes to avoid the fighting. Many of these had to risk their lives to flee towards government controlled territory. LTTE fighters are assigned to force Tamil refugees to move into the shrinking LTTE controlled territory.

The Sri Lankan government has become angry as it uncovers more evidence that NGO (non-governmental organizations, like the Red Cross) resources (vehicles, communications, food, fuel) are being used by the LTTE for combat operations. As more LTTE territory is retaken, more examples of this NGO aid (usually involuntary) to the LTTE is being discovered. The NGOs handle moving food and other aid into LTTE territory, and distributing it.

LTTE prisoners tell of increasingly desperate efforts to recruit fighters and obtain weapons and ammunition. Shortages of everything are hampering the ability of the LTTE to defend their territory and population.  The war is run on the cheap on both sides, with the government spending less than two billion dollars for the fighting in the north this year. The LTTE spends less than a tenth of that. It's mostly low-tech infantry fighting, with a little artillery and air support.

July 30, 2008: The government sent 19,000 additional security personnel to the capital, where a Saarc (South Asian Association of Regional Corporation) conference took place between July 27-August 3. Saarc nations were confident enough in security to send senior officials, and the LTTE has been unable to carry out any attacks. Actually, LTTE gains nothing by attacking foreign officials, as its operatives work in neighboring nations to arrange weapons and equipment shipments.

 

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