Sri Lanka
War material seizure signal LTTE bracing for guerrilla war
Jan 30, 2007 - 8:42:28 AM

New Delhi, Jan 30 - Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers may be preparing for a sustained guerrilla war if the growing seizures of war materials in India are any indication, say official sources.

In the last three months, authorities in Tamil Nadu have taken into their possession equipment and vast quantities of materials that can be used to make bombs meant for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam -.

Officials monitoring the seizures say it is now clear that smuggling of the materials must have been going on for at least a year and that a large quantity may have slipped past the Indian coastline.

The latest find took place in Chennai Jan 24 when five Sri Lankan Tamil and three Indian men were taken into custody with two tonnes of iron ball bearings, following a strong lead from the Indian security establishment.

A day later three more tonnes were seized and another Indian was arrested. All the stuff had been bought in Mumbai.

'It is clear the LTTE's reliance on Tamil Nadu is slowly increasing,' an official told IANS, referring to the state separated from Sri Lanka by a strip of sea and which for years served as a crucial rear base for Tamil militants.

In January 2006, the Sri Lankan Navy intercepted a boat that had sailed from Tamil Nadu with 60,000 detonators and five Indian fishermen. The cargo had been bought in Hyderabad and had reached Tamil Nadu from Kerala.

After a long gap, in November 2006, a lathe machine, which can be used to make shells for bombs, was found in the seabed near the Indian coast.

Later that month, 30 boxes of gelex boosters, which can help increase the velocity of bomb shrapnel, were recovered in a van that met with an accident 45 km from Madurai in Tamil Nadu. The cargo was destined for Sri Lanka.

Again, fishermen from Rameswaram found three live rockets in their fishing nets.

Indian officials think the LTTE network in Tamil Nadu, carefully laid out over the years, has been activated to procure materials to be used in explosives, the prime need in any long drawn guerrilla war.

But they add that it would be a mistake to link up these activities with Tamil Nadu's ruling DMK party, pointing out that LTTE supporters have been busy for at least a year. The DMK took power only in May last year.

'At least in one case one of the suspects who was arrested admitted he had dispatched four to five consignments,' one official said. 'He said he was in it for money.'

Another official pointed out that it looked as if LTTE supporters were consciously buying bomb materials in other states in India and bringing them to Tamil Nadu to be taken to Sri Lanka.

Tamil Nadu's coastline is over 1,000 km long. Although there is heightened vigilance in the coastal districts, it is virtually impossible to provide round the clock surveillance, that too with some 400 'landing points' for boats.

The smuggling of war materials from India coincides with escalating violence in Sri Lanka's northeast where the military has seized several areas from the Tamil Tigers in recent months, forcing the Tigers to retreat.

Analysts here believe that the LTTE, which is highly unlikely to shake hands with Colombo, will eventually opt for guerrilla war, to bog the Sri Lankan security forces down once they get thinly spread out.

Officials say the increasing dependence on Tamil Nadu could reflect one of two things: that some other supply line has been cut off or that the LTTE has decided to use its finances judiciously by going for purchases in a place close to the war theatre.

Although the LTTE is outlawed in India, many in Tamil Nadu, including those in influential positions, still sympathize with its fight for an independent state. But the mass sympathy the cause once evoked has abated.

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