Sri Lanka: Hiding In Plain Sight


February 8, 2009: The few remaining LTTE fighters are using over 100,000 civilians as human shields. The Tamils living under LTTE control for over a decade have been subjected to lots of indoctrination. The end result is that many civilians expect the approaching soldiers to do terrible things to them. Thus the few remaining LTTE officials have been able to persuade many those civilians to accompany the retreating LTTE fighters. The threat of force persuades others to stick around. The LTTE have made the most of this, by making sure videos of wounded Tamil civilians gets out. The government has established a mechanism for civilians to flee LTTE territory (less than a hundred square kilometers now), but the LTTE fires into that zone, and blames the resulting casualties on the government. The Tamils still try to flee. This was enough for pro-LTTE groups around the world, who organized demonstrations to "stop the fighting." The Sri Lankan government will not stop the military operations, because that would make it easier for the LTTE to get its leaders and key personnel off the island, and otherwise reorganize to continue fighting guerilla war, with lots of terror attacks. The government knows this, while the pro-LTTE partisans overseas ignore it.

Despite the demonstrations, many of the leaders of overseas support groups are advising the LTTE to surrender and stop the campaign of using dead Tamil civilians to try and force the Sri Lankan government to agree to a ceasefire (via diplomatic pressure from, say, India.) However, the NGOs (non-government organizations, like the UN and other aid groups) remain staunch supporters of a ceasefire. Part of this has to do with the fact that most of these relief workers are out of a job once the LTTE is defeated. The government has long accused the NGOs of being too cozy and cooperative with the LTTE. The government will have its own people take over most of the relief work in the former LTTE territory, and will definitely want to expel all the NGO personnel (pro-LTTE or not, just to be on the safe side).

As army troops sweep through areas that have been under LTTE control for over a decade, they find some interesting things. Lots of well built command bunkers, and an aboveground mansion that apparently belonged to LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. More importantly, the troops are discovering LTTE warehouses of weapons and other military equipment.

The government is intent on rounding up as many LTTE leaders and technical experts as possible. This is essential if the LTTE post-war guerilla and terrorism campaign is to be limited. Those LTTE professionals will try to sneak out of Sri Lanka via boat (lots of fishing boats in the northern part of the island, and fishermen willing to smuggle people out, if the price is right.) Other LTTE big shots can join the Tamil civilians, and use those still loyal to the LTTE to stay hidden, or try to get false papers and fly out. But many of these LTTE officials are meant to stay hidden in plain sight, and organize the guerilla and terrorism violence.

February 6, 2009:  The army captured the last (known) LTTE naval base. There is only about 20 kilometers of coast left, that the army does not control.

February 5, 2009:  India has asked the LTTE to surrender. While India considers the LTTE a terrorist organization (which killed a former Indian prime minister, and other officials as well), the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu has, naturally, been a major supporter of the LTTE, and the Indian government has tempered its pronouncements on the LTTE in deference to Tamil Nadu politicians. No more.


Article Archive

Sri Lanka: Current 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999



Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close