Sri Lanka's Special Forces Commandos

The battle for Killinochi

It is apalling that we wage war to settle our differences. It is the ugliest trait known to man. It has never been the answer to anything let alone the answer to any one's grievances. Which is why war should never be the chosen option.

When Vellupillai Prabhakaran shot the mayor of Jaffna in 1975, Anthony Duriappah, a Tamil. It was Sri Lanka's first political assassination. It also portrayed the ambitions of the young Prabhakaran. He had chosen war over peace.

Duriappah was murdered 8 years before the dreaded riots of 1983. However, amongst Tamils, 1983 is the much quoted reasoning for choosing war over peace.

UTHR - University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna)

On 27th July 1975, Duraiappah was shot dead when he arrived by car at the Ponnalai Varadaraja Perumal Temple with two companions, as was his custom on Friday evenings. Prabhakaran was among the group of assassins who formed the incipient Tiger Movement. Testimony from one of Duraiappah's companions is of interest.

The assassins who were waiting went towards the three passenger doors of the 4-door car as it halted. The intention was to kill Duraiappah and both his companions. One of the latter, as he alighted through a rear door, saw a short youth pointing a pistol towards him and shivering. This companion, Yoganathan, pushed the youth aside, toppling him flat on the ground and ran into a nearby kiosk selling soft drinks. Another companion, Rajaratnam, was injured but managed to run away.

The assassins, who were evidently nervous, took off in Duraiappah's car with one Patkunam driving. No attempt was made to go for Yoganathan who was hiding in the kiosk. The woman who ran the kiosk called him out when the assassins were gone. He came out and found Duraiappah crying for water. Placing the dying man's head on his lap, he poured some aerated water into his mouth. Duraiappah then breathed his last. Years later, upon seeing Prabhakaran's picture, Yoganathan identified the youth, who had stood before him shivering, as Prabhakaran, and also became his admirer. Others have suggested that Kalapathy, another member of the group, had an appearance having some similarity to Prabhakaran's.

Yoganathan's identification, if correct, points to a Prabhakaran who, in July 1975, still retained a healthy inhibition against killing. But not long afterwards he was instrumental in the murder of Patkunam who drove the car. The direction of his movement was set.
Being neither Sinhalese nor Tamil, I watched for 30 years as the Sinhalese negotiated with the brutal Tamil Tigers (LTTE).

Successive Sinhalese governments negotiated but could never please Prabhakaran. I watched for years as a group of uneducated youth - cold blooded killers who robbed banks to fund themselves - transform themsleves from a law and order issue into becoming the self imposed representative for all Tamils on the island.

Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan, better known by his nom de guerre, Colonel Karuna, left the Tamil Tigers because Prabhakaran wanted the LTTE representatives at the negotiating table to refuse any federal offer.


Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan, who commanded LTTE combatants in the east, says he gave up on the struggle when Prabhakaran told his negotiators to reject an offer of federalism. "I told him, 'This is a good time to stop this. A federal situation is a very powerful solution,' " says Mr. Muralitharan, who is now a government minister in Colombo.
A federal solution which would have essentially handed the Tamil Tigers a separate state for Tamils was exactly what they had been fighting for. Yet Prabhakaran rejected the offer. Does one need a clearer sign that he never wished for peace?

He may not have wished for an endless war, but his organisation and the funding of his organisation largely depended on war. He may have also secretly wished for more than what was offered by the Sri Lankan government. It turned out to be his demise.

When any democratically elected government is faced with such a dilemma, it attempts to negotiate. It also has upon it the pressure of the voters and the tax payers to provide them with a safe and secure environment.

The list of atrocities committed by the Tigers to terrorise the people of Sri Lanka is too long to mention here. Ethnic cleansing of Muslims in the areas they controlled, brutally hacking to death unarmed civilians, many women and kids, with machetes to root fear of their organisation into every citizen, is just to name a few.

Their use of suicide bombs has also been well documented.

What then does this post have to do with Sri Lanka's Special Forces, you may ask.

It was a bullet from a Special Forces commando that ended Prabhakaran's life. A shot by a well trained marksman put an end to 30 years of war. No other unit in Sri Lanka's armed forces fought the LTTE deep inside it's own territory like the Special Forces Commandos of Sri Lanka.

The Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol, a covert operations unit, (also known as the Deep Penetration Unit) is a part of Sri Lanka's Special Forces. The LRRP belongs to the Special Forces' 3rd Regiment (SF3).

Make no mistake, the Special Forces did not just consist of Sinhalese. Similar to the other areas of the armed forces, it also had in it's ranks members of the Tamil speaking Muslim community.

Colonel A. Fazly Laphir is one such example.

I wrote previously (in more detail) on the LRRP's involvement in crushing the Tigers. They were largely responsible for this military defeat inflicted on the Tigers.

I say this not because I am unaware of the commendable services carried out by the other sections of the armed forces, including the Navy? But because the Special Forces went where the others could not.

They took the risks that paved the way for the infantry and air force to act upon by going into the Tiger's lair.

It is rumoured that during the final days of battle even the hardcore units of the Tigers from the Radha Regiment and the Charles Anthony Regiment were seen fleeing at the sound of gunfire in the dead of the night.

The sound of gunfire meant that SF commandos were coming, armed with night vision, taking on the guerrillas in virtual darkness from behind their own front lines.

The successful covert operations of the SF teams is evident when even booby traps, improvised explosive devices, land mines and 10 foot tall fortifications set by the Tigers to prevent the advancement of the government forces could not keep the Special Forces away.

Jungle terrain which the Tigers used as an advantage turned out to be more advantageous for Sri Lanka's Special Forces.

With the creation of the Special Forces' LRRP Sri Lanka had for the first time a unit which thrived on guerrilla warfare.

Sri Lanka offered the Tiger leadership the option of choosing a peaceful resolution to the conflict weeks before their leadership was completely annihilated, even offering them amnesty. But the Tigers chose to wage war and carry on their fight.

On the 3rd weekend of May 2009, the Sri Lankans had enough of the Tigers putting innocent Tamil civilians on the front lines, they had enough of the international pressure calling for a ceasefire which would allow the cornered Tiger leadership to flee, re-arm, and take Sri lanka back into years of civil war.

The Special Forces teams were sent in. They broke through the Tiger defences over night and cleared a path for a large number of civilians who were held as a human shield to flee. And flee they did. Thousands upon thousands fled the Tigers, braving gunfire from the Tigers who considered them traitors for not shielding their leaders.

What was left of the Tigers after the mass exodus was 250 - 300 of their most battle hardened and ruthless cadres who remained to safeguard their leaders. They were trapped in an area the size of a football field. They were well armed hoping to fight their way out and into the nearby jungles.

It didn't happen. The special forces ambushed them and gunned them down.

I received an email today from an unnamed source with the following images of the Special Forces Commandos and the SF training school. Which incidentally prompted me to pen this post.

I do not know the owner of the photographs, or the name of the photographer to credit the source. I would be glad to credit the source if someone would be kind enough to inform me by leaving a comment below.

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