Mia Bloom -- What the Tigers Taught Al-Qaeda
By Mia Bloom Sunday, May 24, 2009
It took a pitched two-hour gun battle with Sri Lankan special forces. Then a rocket launched into his armor-plated ambulance. But last Monday, death finally came to Velupillai Prabhakaran, leader of the Tamil Tigers separatist group.
Also gone are Prabhakaran's son and heir apparent, Charles Anthony, and as many as 300 cadres. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations on the planet, has been essentially wiped out .
But the Tigers' legacy remains intact. Their perfection of suicide bombings, their recruitment of women and children, their innovation in IEDs, have been emulated by other terrorist groups worldwide, from al-Qaeda to Hezbollah. Though they considered themselves superior to jihadi terrorists -- who regularly target civilians -- the Tigers opened the door to terrorism as a strategy of liberation and resistance to an unwanted government or occupying force. And they reached a standard of deadly efficiency envied by U.S. enemies and terrorists around the globe.
The Tigers, who claimed to represent Sri Lanka's Tamil minority, sought independence from Sri Lanka and its Sinhalese majority. Their popularity among Tamils resulted in part from the Sri Lankan government's ethnic cleansing campaigns and from their spectacular headline-grabbing terrorist attacks.
The key event for the Tigers -- and for the suicide-bombing techniques they pioneered -- was the assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 by a female suicide bomber. With that one act, they alienated the Sri Lankan Tamil community from their Indian brethren and branded the LTTE as a terrorist organization in 20 countries.
Over more than three decades, the LTTE perfected suicide terrorism by loading all sorts of vehicles with explosives: cars, boats and even bicycles. They devoted a unit especially to suicide bombing, recruited cadres of child soldiers known as "baby tigers" and launched a women's unit commanded by women. They attacked the government by air and by sea and used operatives who defied terrorist profiling.
Among the victims of their most successful plots were a president and several high-ranking members of the military. Attacking high-value targets often required months of meticulous planning. In one instance, a female bomber, Anoja Kugenthirarasah, apparently faked a pregnancy and attended prenatal maternity classes at a military hospital for three weeks before making a failed attempt on the life of the commander of the Sri Lankan army, Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka.
Al though Al-Quaida is much talked about, the LTTE had the bragging rights of training terrorist cells in Nepal, Malaysia, Tamil Nadu (the original trainers of LTTE) and Ethiopia. Their network was vast and took pride in training terrorists fighting against duly elected Governments, invariably for lost causes.
The standards of indoctrination of suicide bombers of the LTTE were very high. After the indoctrination was complete, the suicide bomber would get a chance of having a mean with their Sun God Prabhakaran. This was shown to the would be suicide bomber as the ultimate honour anybody would have. Had all the suicide bombers who blasted themselves known that their idol would not even have his vial of cyanide with him at the time of his death, their final thoughts would have been different.
There is a school of thought that Al-Qaeda had nothing to learn from the LTTE Terrorists. To take this point a bit further, we should check on some facts:
1. Fact one: The LTTE invented the modern suicide bomber and deployed it into all their rank's against both political, military and civilian targets. You now see Islamic groups copy the LTTE with suicide attack's.
2. Fact two The LTTE attack shipping off the coast of Sri Lanka blowing ships or piracy. We then saw attacks on the USS Cole off Yemen and then you see piracy off the coast of Somalia a strong hold for Al-Qaeda followers.
3. Fact three The LTTE attack the World Trade Centre in Sri Lanka you then see attack's by Al-Qaeda on the World Trade Centre in New York, America.
4. Fact four The LTTE has a women's section deployed into it's rank's. You see Al-Qaeda and Chechen terrorist's who took over the Russian theatre, use black widow women suicide bombers.
5. Fact five : Attack's on civilians in bus and trains in Sri Lanka where innocent passengers were killed, Al-Qaeda in London bombed public civilian transport in the 7/7 attack's on London transport.
The LTTE's improvised explosive devices (IEDs) set the industry standard. Using a combination of military-grade explosive packed with ball bearings that performed like buckshot, the belts were far more deadly and effective than anything used by jihadi terrorist groups or suicide bombers in the Middle East and elsewhere. When al-Qaeda made inquiries in 2001 into whether the group would share its advanced technology and IED blueprints, it was told in no uncertain terms, as my sources said, "No, we don't want to kill Americans." The leaders whom I interviewed in December 2002, all dead now, looked down on Islamic suicide bombers. "We don't go after kids in Pizza Hut," one high-ranking Tiger leader told me in a clear reference to Hamas's 2001 Sbarro attack in Jerusalem, which killed 15 civilians (including six children) and wounded 130.
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