Sri Lanka's post-war intelligence operation

Nabbing the senior most Tamil Tiger (LTTE) leader remaining alive, on foreign soil, underscores the importance of the role played by the island's intelligence agency in post war Sri Lanka.

The repercussions of just one explosion, or suicide bomb, in Sri Lanka, after the defeat of the Tigers in May, 2009, will be dire for the Sri Lankan government who are looking to rebuild Sri Lanka's economy after 30 years of war. It would also give the sympathisers of the Tamil Tiger movement, as well as the critics of president Rajapaksa, the much needed impetus after a series of demoralising defeats.


He [Pathmanathan] was the highest-ranking Tiger leader left and his interrogations are expected to yield valuable intelligence to help Sri Lanka catch other LTTE operatives, many of whom are operating from overseas.

Taken together with the massive operation to unearth millions of dollars worth of hidden weapons and explosives caches buried all over northern and eastern Sri Lanka, the two sets of arrests underscore the scale of the post-war intelligence operation.

The military this week even put up wanted posters and public announcements to track down a suspected female suicide bomber in her 20s, believed to be in hiding in Colombo.
Sri Lanka's state intelligence agency has grown from strength to strength in the recent years. In November of 2007, identifying the location of the bunker in which senior LTTE leader S. P. Thamilselvam was sleeping in, was a crucial blow to the LTTE. It came just days after the LTTE attacked the Anuradhapura Air Base causing large scale devastation to several aircraft. The losses mounted to millions of dollars.

D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Thursday November 1st saw a special ceremony being held in the Wanni where tiger supremo Velupillai Prabakharan awarded four different types of military honours for those involved in various aspects of “Operation Ellalan”. But this euphoria of victory over the Air force at Saliyapura was short lived. Within 24 hours of the award ceremony the Sri Lankan air force struck back. The buoyant LTTE mood turned gloomy. The airforce down in the doldrums after the Anuradhapura debacle became chirpy again. Such are the fluctuating fortunes of this fratricidal fighting.

At first light on Friday Nov 2nd , Israeli built K-fir jet bombers and Russian supersonic MiG 27 ’s engaged in aerial bombardment over Iranaimadhu east, South Kilinochchi town and its suburbs like Anandapuram and Thiruvaiyaaru . Two civilians were killed and six injured. But the biggest casualties were suffered by the LTTE. Suppiah Paramu Thamilchelvan the 40 year old head of the LTTE’s Political division was killed along with five other tigers in the aerial attack.
Although the Air Force carried out the attack, it was Sri Lanka's intelligence agency, under the Ministry of Defence, which identified the target.

Also read: War by other means

The recent recovery of tonnes of explosives, and the arrest of LTTE suicide bombers in hiding highlights the importance of the Sri Lankan intelligence establishment. Pathmanathan's arrest is undoubtedly the icing on the cake for an organisation that very seldomly receives accolades or praise.

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