Thursday, April 16, 2009

How the Tamil Tigers have become involved in piracy

By Pam Uher

The Tamil Tigers are not a species of endangered cats; instead they are a notorious band of violent terrorists (acknowledged as such by over 30 countries in the world) that are based in northern Sri Lanka. They originally founded their organization in 1976, as a secessionist movement that seeks to create an independent Tamil state in the north of Sri Lanka [PBS Frontline, 2002]. Today they are commonly referred to as the LTTE or "Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam".

The LTTE are a very well organized militant group known for extremely violent attacks on civilians as well as carrying out assassinations of Sri Lankan and Indian officials. This group is also associated with the recruiting of young children as soldiers and is given credit for being the first to use the "suicide belt" bomb. They are also known to use women frequently as suicide bombers in their terrorist attacks. It has been reported by the media (PBS among others) that LTTE has delivered actual more suicide bombings than many other terrorist groups like Hamas and al-Qaeda.

What does this militant terrorist group have to do with piracy? The structure of this organization has 3 divisions: military, political and monetary. It is a branch of the military division called the "SEA TIGERS", which was started in 1984, that has a piracy connection. This naval branch of the LTTE is said to have over 2,000 troops and is a force to be reckoned with on the high seas near and around Sri Lanka. The Woodrow Wilson School of Politics and International Studies has reported that this elite terrorist naval unit has "destroyed 35- 50 percent of the Sri Lankan Navy. But they also are reported to be engaged in piracy on the open international seas; hijacking various ships or diverse origin since 1995 to the present day.

They especially like to target freighters carrying goods they can make high profit selling on the world "black market". Once they take over these vessels, cargo and crew disappear, often without a trace. Chinese, Malaysian, Jordanian and Indian ships have been the target of the Tamil Sea Tigers during the past 20 years. The LTTE Sea Tigers fear no nation on the high seas, it seems and they have made a grave impact upon trade routes with their acts of piracy.

Once a ship is hijacked this vicious group of terrorists kill the crew, take the goods and sometimes sink the vessel or make it a so called "phantom vessel", incorporating it into their fleet. In the 1990's nations tried to negotiate with the LTTE pirates, but usually to no avail. They are clever and violent using aircraft and speed boats loaded with explosives to pirate vessels of their choice. The Indian press reports new alarming information about their activities that has the American authorities very tight mouthed: reports that within marine wing of the LTTE, they are trying to develop homemade submarines, in order to expand their activities of smuggling and piracy. It is also known several submarine type ships were caught carrying large cocaine shipments from Columbia and Costa Rica to the U.S. mainland in the past several years were manned by LTTE Sea Tigers (2006, 3 tons of cocaine confiscated in international water off the coast of Coast Rica.)

The Sri Lankan military has been actively carrying out operations to shut down the LTTE Pirates and sea bases in northern Sri Lanka. Their success with naval blockages and land attacks on Sea Tiger Base Camps has been documented in the International News Media in February and March of 2009. These military surges, by the Sri Lankan military have captured many Sea Tiger speed boats (used as bomb craft when attacking on the open seas) and submersibles used by the terrorists during the water raids. On February 8, 2009, the SLAF (Sri Lankan Air Force) reported to the Press that the Sea Tiger leader had been killed and the terrorist main sea command post destroyed.
Piracy supports the terrorist agenda for the LTTE through the expansive network of the Sea Tigers military division. No nation is safe from their high seas piracy and terror, for they do not have boundaries on their violent actions. Their mission is clear: pillage, plunder, kill, destroy and create havoc, until they are in control of Sri Lanka. If they ever get control of Sri Lanka territories will their piracy stop then? Probably not, as it has been a very profitable venture over the past 25 years that has funded their terrorism and allowed the leaders to grow rich.

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