Thread Rating:
  • 0 Vote(s) - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Who in Army HQ tipped off bomber?
Who in Army HQ tipped off bomber?


It is easily the worst incident in the two decades of separatist war and interludes of peace with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

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.

But 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.

A Criminal 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.

They 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.

This 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.

This 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.

It 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 him.

Visitors 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.

And 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.

The 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.

In 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.

Though 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 next door.

That 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.

Evidence 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.

Two 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.

Another 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.

Further 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.

Barely 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 attacks.
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.

Engaging 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.

The 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.

Intelligence 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.

The 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.

From 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 in Bambalapitiya.

Mr 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.

In 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.

This 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.

Priority 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 top).

Both 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.
<span style='font-size:20pt;line-height:100%'>Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.</span>

Forum Jump:

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)