A soldier with his finger on the trigger of a Chinese built T-56
assault rifle looks out of a guard point, one of many that have
cropped up in the City after mounting attacks on armed forces by
Tiger guerrillas. Photo: Ishara S.Kodikara
in Army HQ tipped off bomber?
Anoja Kuhanesarasa, the female suicide bomber
is easily the worst incident in the two decades of separatist war
and interludes of peace with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
A female suicide bomber infiltrated the heavily-fortified Army Headquarters
in Colombo. She threw herself before Army Commander Lt. Gen. Sarath
Fonseka's motorcade. If not for motorcycle outrider Corporal Ruwan
Yakandawala, who kicked her, faced the full brunt of the explosion
and died on the spot, Lt. Gen. Fonseka would be no more.
he was badly wounded and had to undergo emergency surgery. He is
still under intensive care. If that was bad enough, there is something
more bizarre. No one knows how she found her way into Army Headquarters
and there is no official record.
security for “border” villages
of Tiger guerrilla attacks on villages bordering areas, mostly
Sinhala and Muslim, dominated by them have prompted the Ministry
of Defence to take immediate counter measures.
Defence Secretary Gothabaya Rajapaksa has appointed Rear Admiral
Sarath Weerasekera, Director General of the 25,000 strong
Home Guards Unit. This is in addition to his duties as Deputy
Chief of Staff of the Navy. Earlier, the head of this unit
was called "Commissioned Army Commander." Previously
the post was held by the serving Inspector General of Police.
this new office Rear Admiral Weerasekera has been tasked with
the responsibility of protecting what have come to be known
as "border" villages.
Identified as a Supplementary Force under the Mobilisation
and Supplementary Forces Act (No 40 of 1985), the law empowers
the President to name and specify such forces.
Home Guard, according to the law, can be headed by the Commanders
of the Army, Navy, Air Force or the IGP. In addition, any
fit and proper person, designated by name or by office, by
the President is also entitled to be its head.
Some of the priorities for the new Director General would
be further training for Home Guards and the enlistment of
Investigation Department (CID) team tasked by Police Chief Chandra
Fernando has an uphill task. They will have to find out how the
suicide bomber gained entry to carry out the dastardly attack. More
importantly they will have to unravel how one of the biggest security
breaches in Sri Lanka's post independent history occurred.
have already pieced together some of the sequence of events from
accounts given by eye witnesses. The 21-year-old woman, said to
be identified as Anoja Kuhanesarasa from Vavuniya, who appeared
to be pregnant was in the bus that takes visitors to Army Headquarters.
That includes the Army Hospital. But there is no record of her reporting
to the reception to surrender her national identity card to obtain
a Visitor Pass.
Then she was seen seated in a waiting area at the hospital.
was near an enclosure where laboratory tests were carried out. She
was later spotted at the canteen. She was at the front verandah
at the hospital when her mobile phone rang. She answered it and
darted towards the road. Someone inside tipped her off that Lt.
Gen. Fonseka's motorcade was approaching. That was how she threw
herself whilst detonating the lethal mix of explosives and steel
balls strapped to her stomach and chest.
Pieces of a mobile phone sans the SIM card were found. Detectives
located the IMEI number on the phone.
15 digit number is registered by mobile phone service providers
when a subscriber obtains a connection. Thus their name, address
and phone number too are available in data stored in computers.
However, checks had revealed that none of the four mobile phone
operators in Sri Lanka had registered this particular phone. Yet,
other measures to track down the phone number are now under way.
seemed ironic that security at Army Headquarters was dramatically
overhauled after Lt. Gen. Fonseka took office as Commander on December
6 last year. It was further tightened up after he received warnings
from former the Directorate of Internal Intelligence (DII) and now
State Intelligence Service (SIS), the country's premier intelligence
agency, of Tiger guerrilla threats to his life. According to one
source, one such warning some five months ago gave details of a
possible infiltration by guerrillas into Army Headquarters to assassinate
were required to report to a reception area, surrender their national
identity cards and obtain a visitor pass. Thereafter they were required
to board a bus that took them up to the hospital area. Soldiers
who came in civilian clothes were debarred entry to the headquarters
complex. They were required to come in uniform. Some who travelled
in public transport from far away areas brought along their uniform
in a parcel. Visitors including soldiers were banned from walking
on either side of the road from the main entrance to the headquarters
building. Those above the rank of Brigadiers were allowed the continued
use of a special lane that gave them unimpeded access.
the man who did all this to prevent the guerrillas taking his life
or infiltrating his headquarters was not totally fool proof.
Tiger guerrilla intelligence boss T. Shivashankar alias Pottu Amman
was now using new methods to gather intelligence to plan out attacks.
A new addition to his book of tricks is spending vast amounts of
money. Detectives now suspect even sexual relationships by guerrilla
cadres with contacts in the south. Was someone inside Army Headquarters
paid large sums of money to provide intelligence to plan the attack
on Lt. Gen. Fonseka? Or did the female suicide bomber, who appeared
attractive and spoke fluent Sinhala, develop a sexual relationship
with an Army soldier or employee? These are aspects now being probed.
infiltration into Army Headquarters and the carrying out a suicide
bomb attack on Lt. Gen. Fonseka would have meant the gathering of
hard intelligence over a period of time. The move could be likened
to the Army planning an attack on LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran
somewhere in the general areas of Puthukudiyiruppu or Mullaitivu.
They would require precise information about his residence, his
movements, his regular routine, habits, the type of personal security
he is protected by, the access to various locations and many more
details. Only then could meticulous planning get under way.
the case of Tuesday's attack there is no doubt such intelligence
gathering had gone on. That was how the plot to infiltrate and attack
had been planned and executed to the detail. Tiger guerrilla intelligence
was aware that there was a maternity clinic every Tuesday at the
Army Hospital inside the headquarters complex. Therefore did Anoja
make visits earlier using her unknown contact on reconnaissance
work? They also became aware that the Chief of Defence Staff chaired
a security review conference every week on Tuesday afternoon with
the armed forces commanders and senior intelligence officials.
he had taken charge of the "General's House," official
residence of the Army Commander at Bullers Road, guerrilla intelligence
had known that he did not live there. Instead he continued to stay
in the official residence of the Army Chief of Staff located within
the headquarters complex. Also known was the fact that he did not
use the bullet proof BMW given by President Mahinda Rajapaksa for
his safety. Instead, he used a Peugeot 406 for travel within the
headquarters complex or to proceed to the Ministry of Defence located
Tuesday, he had left office around 1.45 p.m. He was to have lunch
at the Chief of Staff's residence he occupied and drive to the JOH
for the weekly security review meeting. It is only after he had
boarded the car, his motor cycle outriders and escorts began to
move that suicide bomber Anoja's mobile phone rang. Someone who
was watching all that happen was there to alert her. Was he doing
it for large sums of money or for love, or both? Some eye witnesses
have spoken about seeing a male escort with her though they cannot
identify him. Whoever he is, the person is at large and still has
access to Army Headquarters.
that the LTTE was spending large sums of money to buy information
from civilians in the south has surfaced in the recent months. CID
detectives probing the murder of Army intelligence officer Lt. Col.
(posthumously promoted) Nizam Muthaliff on May 31, 2005 found that
an accomplice in the south was paid an advance of Rs 1.3 million.
This was to provide information on the officer's movements. It came
after he was taken on a visit to Kilinochchi.
weeks ago, detectives probing a guerrilla assassination attempt
on Minister Maithrapala Sirisena learnt how a person known to him
in Polonnnaruwa was approached. He had been promised an advance
payment of one million rupees if he gave information on Mr. Sirisena's
movements. He promptly brought this matter to the attention of Mr.
Sirisena. The Police arrest of two guerrillas during a search operation
in Polonnaruwa provided more details of the assassination plot.
One of them carried a forged national identity card with a Sinhala
name whilst the other held one with a Muslim name. One of them who
bit a cyanide capsule died later in hospital.
instance of how a Sri Lankan showed his national mindedness came
in Colombo. He was the conductor of a private bus. It was passing
the then residence of Defence Secretary Gothabaya Rajapaksa somewhere
in Colombo. He spotted a suspicious looking person drawing something
on his left palm using a pen on his right hand. He asked the driver
to stop the bus, walked up to him and seized him. Later, he handed
over the man to a sentry nearby. It turned out that the man was
a hard core Tiger guerrilla intelligence cadre. He was drawing a
map of the location where Mr. Rajapaksa then lived.
interrogation of the man led to a startling find. He had stored
in the place where he resided a stock of explosives. He was not
only conducting reconnaissance on the Defence Secretary but also
on a number of others. He had been friendly with a one time activist
of the Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP). On one occasion he
had accompanied him for a meeting with its leader, Douglas Devananda.
The man had bared vital information relating to guerrilla operations
in the City of Colombo.
two hours after Tuesday's incident at Army Headquarters, President
Mahinda Rajapaksa chaired an emergency session of the National Security
Council. The recent attacks on armed forces and police by the LTTE,
culminating in that day's incident were closely examined. Most felt
a limited but strong response was necessary to demonstrate that
the Government would not be humbled into submission by repeated
Some felt that though a Ceasefire Agreement was in force, it was
the sovereign right of a Government to defend itself when a major
attack was carried in blatant violation of all norms. It was decided
that there should be limited air strikes on guerrilla targets in
Sampur, the palm fringed area that overlooks the harbour mouth in
Trincomalee. Just across Sampur, separated by the inner harbour
lay the Dockyard where the Eastern Naval Area Headquarters is located.
guerrilla targets in and around Sampur was important over other
targets in the east. It was Trincomalee that the LTTE wants as the
capital of its so called state of Eelam. During the period of the
ceasefire, the guerrillas had established mortar and artillery positions
in Sampur. Their aim was to prevent re-inforcements and supplies
leaving Trincomalee for the Jaffna peninsula should hostilities
break out. Repairs to the runway at the Palaly airport, now under
way, would have curtailed air traffic. With the possible closure
of the A-9 (Jaffna-Kandy) highway in such an event, Trincomalee
would become the lifeline for more than 35,000 policemen and troops.
Thus targeting guerrilla positions in Sampur would deny the guerrillas
a stronghold from which to throttle the movement of armed forces.
Air Force used Israeli built Kfir interceptor jets to pound guerrilla
targets in Sampur on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday forenoon. If
some bombs were off target and fell in a civilian area in Mutur
killing four including a Muslim cleric, there was at least one direct
hit on an LTTE training camp. Intelligence sources say at least
30 guerrillas were killed and a mass funeral was held yesterday.
A lorry load of damaged weapons were transported and placed in a
school. Besides the four deaths from a bomb falling off away from
the target, at least eight other civilians were reported killed.
However, there is still a dispute about the number displaced. Whilst
the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it
was 7000 to 8000 the Government declared the number was smaller.
According to a Government statement there were some 16,500 civilians
living in Sampur.
circles in Colombo were baffled over how information of air attacks
had leaked in advance. It was after credible reports that the guerrillas
had used loud hailers mounted on vehicles to caution the people
about impending air attacks. Did some paid informant tip them off?
Yet, the LTTE could not move equipment or vacate those occupying
the training camp that was hit. It was only in February, this year,
the LTTE advised civilians living in the Trincomalee district to
start building bunkers in their homes (The Sunday Times - Situation
Report February 19).
Beginning Tuesday armed forces and the Police began search operations
in the City and suburbs for possible guerrilla cadres and hideouts.
Over a 100 persons have been taken in for questioning. A separate
operation in Mount Lavinia brought forth a startling revelation.
search of the flat of a Police Inspector engaged in counter terrorism
work and now officially reported missing led to the discovery of
a sniper rifle with a telescopic mount. The flat is located within
the precincts of the Mount Lavinia Police. The search came after
lengthy surveillance over suspicious activity. Though the flat was
locked from outside, it was observed that there had been activity
going on inside. The flat is where Inspector T. Jeyaratnam, now
known to have been kidnapped by Tiger guerrillas, used to live.
Since he was reported missing, it had been occupied by his family.
his days as a Sergeant in the Police, Mr. Jeyaratnam had been assigned
to counter terrorism responsibilities and was covering the LTTE.
He came into prominence whilst working in the Mount Lavinia Police
Station. He was responsible for cracking some cases leading to the
arrest of guerrilla cadres operating from cells in that area. After
reported threats to his life, Inspector Jeyaratnam had been transferred
at his own request to the Field Force Headquarters of the Police
Jeyaratnam was reported missing after he attended a dinner at the
Mount Lavinia Hotel on April 27, 2005. Thereafter intelligence reports
confirmed that he had been escorted by boat from Negombo to Kilinochchi.
Intelligence sources say he may have now been persuaded to work
for the LTTE and thus help them to hide the sniper rifle at his
flat. Without doubt, such a rifle is meant for assassinating VIPs.
It was such a rifle that was used to kill former Foreign Minister
Lakshman Kadirgamar last year. A full investigation is now under
way into this matter.
mounting claymore bomb attacks on the armed forces and police in
the past many weeks, Tiger guerrillas signalled the dawn of Eelam
War IV in a limited way. The suicide bomb attack on Lt. Gen. Fonseka,
the LTTE expected, would trigger off a major retaliatory attack
by the armed forces. They also expected a communal backlash. Instead
the Government responded in a limited way by conducting aerial attacks
and Army firing artillery at guerrilla positions in Sampur. Have
the guerrillas called it quits? Or, are they busy preparing themselves
for another major strike?
State intelligence believes the answer lies in the latter.
is the main reason why Police Chief Chandra Fernando persuaded the
National Security Council this week to cancel all May Day activities
in the district of Colombo. Despite drawing additional Police strength
from the provinces, he feared ensuring that locations are safe for
May Day rallies was an onerous task for the Police. The armed forces
were also assigned other national security responsibilities in the
light of recent guerrilla attacks.
consideration is being given by the Ministry of Defence to ensure
troops and police are prepared to meet any threats to national security.
Vital installations including electricity transmission centres,
fuel storage tanks and others have been secured. The Government
has taken new measures to ensure villages that border guerrilla
controlled areas are better protected. (See box story on
the Government and the LTTE have again this week pledged to honour
the Ceasefire Agreement. But it is no secret that they are veering
away from the negotiating table to the battlefield. No matter what
the wild speculation is, this is the grim reality.