New details of LTTE attack planning

General Fonseka

General Fonseka

One of the interesting side effects of the defeat of the LTTE by the Sri Lankan military has been a spate of new information regarding previous incidents. Presumably the Sri Lankan intelligence services have had a field day, interrogating captured Tigers and poring over seized document caches.

A good example concerns the April 2006 attempted suicide assassination bid against the head of Sri Lanka’s army, Sarath Fonseka. He was seriously injured when a female LTTE Black Tiger ( 21-year-old Anoja Kugenthirasah) detonated herself inside the perimeter of the headquarters of the Sri Lankan military. At the time, the attack drew a lot of attention, partly because of the apparent security breach, partly because the bomber may have used being pregnant as a cover for getting into the base (by attending a clinic held at the site’s hospital).

New details emerged in the last couple of weeks about the LTTE’s intelligence efforts to facilitate the attack. Reportedly, Fonseka’s cook, a soldier named Siddiqui, who had worked for him since 2002, had been recruited by the LTTE as a mole within the general’s staff. Just prior to Fonseka’s taking up of the post of Chief of Staff in 2004, Siddiqui had been injured in an accident, and was admitted to the military hospital within the perimeter of the military headquarters where his employer’s new office was to be.

The LTTE suicide attacker and her minder, posing as Siddiqui’s relatives, visited him in hospital and used this opportunity to conduct reconnaissance of the headquarters area and studied Fonseka’s routine, identifying that he made a daily vehicle journey from his office to his home for lunch. It also emerged that, on the day of the attack, Siddiqui made a call to the waiting suicide attacker, confirming that Fonseka had left the office and was approaching the ambush point. As Fonseka’s vehicle passed the military hospital, the attacker detonated, killing eight people, seriously wounding the General along with 27 others.

Siddiqui continued to work within the military until his arrest in August, and he subsequently committed suicide in his cell. His arrest was sparked by the interrogation of another LTTE operative who had been involved in the operation.

For me, two key points jump out of this.

First, the ability of the LTTE to recruit and maintain intelligence sources within the entourages of potential targets. They showed a repeated ability to do this (for example the assassination of Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa in May 1993). Despite the failure of the attack, Siddiqui remained in place and was presumably still active.

Second, the long term nature of the planning. From the reporting of this story, it appears that the LTTE spend at least two years planning the attack, with the attacker having been already selected and deployed on reconnaissance two years prior to the event. This planning and reconnaissance allowed the Tigers to plan and execute an attack against Sri Lanka’s most senior soldier within the perimeter of what was presumably one of the most secure facilities in the country. The LTTE came very close to killing the man who would ultimately prosecute the campaign that destroyed their organisation.

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