Excerpt on Sri Lanka from the 'Country Reports on Terrorism'
Released by the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, U.S. Department of State
April 30, 2008

 

Sri Lanka

Approximately 5,000 people were killed and many thousands more displaced as the conflict escalated between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization. The Sri Lankan government took effective control of the Eastern Province in midyear, but the LTTE continued to control much of the north and carried out attacks throughout the country. The Sri Lankan Army remained deployed across the country in all areas it controlled to fight the insurgency. The Special Task Force (STF) police were deployed both in the east and in strategic locations in the west. Although a Cease-fire Agreement was nominally in effect, the level of violence rose to that associated with the period prior to the signing of the agreement in 2002.

The LTTE and government forces engaged in retaliatory attacks throughout the year. On November 28, an LTTE suicide bomber attempted to assassinate Minister for Social Services and Welfare Douglas Devananda. (This was at least the 11th attempt on the Tamil leader’s life.) On the same day, a parcel bomb killed at least 19 in a shopping area in southern Colombo. The likely perpetrator was the LTTE, although there is some public speculation that this may have been a criminal, rather than LTTE, attack. Other major LTTE attacks included attacks on the Anuradhapura Air Base (October); the first-ever LTTE attacks by air of Katunayake Airport and a gas storage facility in Colombo (March), the Palaly Air Force Base in Jaffna (April), and parcel bombings of two intercity buses in southern Sri Lanka (January). Many of these attacks appeared to have been reprisals for offensive actions taken, or at least alleged to have been carried out, by the Government of Sri Lanka, such as attacks on busses and villages and the air raid on November 2 that killed LTTE political chief S.P. Tamilchelvan.

A breakaway group from the LTTE, the Karuna Faction, was also responsible for extrajudicial killings and attacks against the LTTE and its alleged civilian supporters in eastern Sri Lanka. Its former leader, Karuna Amman, was arrested in London on charges of immigration fraud in November. A rival leader, Pillayan, has since consolidated control of the Karuna faction and displaced cadres loyal to Karuna.

The government took control of Sri Lanka’s eastern province by July, but was unable to move forward on elections, devolution of power, and economic development programs because of instability and the fragility of the national governing coalition. The LTTE maintained control of much of the north and retained the capacity to mount attacks throughout the country. In late November and December, government forces increased activity against targets in the north.

The LTTE continued to finance itself with contributions from the Tamil Diaspora in North America, Europe, and Australia, by imposing local "taxes" on businesses operating in the areas of Sri Lanka under its control, and reportedly by extortion operations in government-controlled areas. The LTTE also used Tamil charitable organizations as fronts for its fundraising. In November, the USG designated under Executive Order 13224 and froze the U.S.-held assets of the Tamils Rehabilitation Organization, a charity associated with the LTTE. The LTTE previously used such funds for weapons purchases on the international black market and also captured arms from Sri Lankan security forces. The Sri Lankan Navy sunk three LTTE supply ships in September and another in October.

Human rights groups and other observers have accused all parties to the conflict with carrying out abductions and extrajudicial killings. The LTTE and the Karuna faction were charged with forced conscription and child recruitment. In general, the LTTE did not intentionally target U.S. citizens or assets, limiting attacks to Sri Lankan security forces, political figures, civilians, and businesses. However, attacks occurred within the vicinity of the U.S. embassy and personnel; the U.S. Ambassador was traveling in a helicopter that came under mortar fire in February. The LTTE subsequently apologized for the incident.

Sri Lankan cooperation with the FBI resulted in arrests of persons charged with material support to terrorist groups. The U.S. provided training for relevant Sri Lankan government agencies and the banking sector. The Government of Sri Lanka cooperated with the United States to implement both the Container Security Initiative and the Megaports program at the port of Colombo.

Last updated: Sunday, May 4, 2008
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