In the Face of Tight Security, LTTE Strikes Again
By: Anthony M. Davis
May 10th, 2008 was Election Day for one million Sri Lankan people eligible to vote in the eastern district of Batticaloa. Before this day, the polls in this area remained closed for 20 years. The Sri Lankan government hoped the vote would suppress the power of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) fighting since 1983 to gain independence.
Yet, for the Tamil Tigers, this would be a good day to strike against the government. Terror attacks are not so much about killing as it is a public display that the government is unable to provide safety and security for their citizens. The LTTE understands the concept of tactical momentum and with 25 years of terror attacks and unrest, the Sri Lankan government knows that all too well. On land, the LTTE has consistently attacked, and at sea by the Sea Tigers, the maritime front of the rebel force has plagued the Sri Lankan government.
The Sri Lankan Navy set up extra protection establishing Trincomalee Harbor as a “high security zone.” This area has seen assaults before and now with a 24-hour security posture the Navy claimed they were ready. Yet, during the pre-dawn hours, attackers from the LTTE’s Kangkai Amaran Battalion entered the harbor undetected.
This time the target was the 262-foot cargo vessel, MV Invincible (A520). The cargo ship became property of the Sri Lankan Navy after an unsuccessful migrant smuggling attempt in 2003. Now the vessel was loaded with military weapons and equipment to support the Sri Lankan fighting force against the LTTE in the north.
An investigation continues in an attempt to explain how the LTTE managed to enter a heavily defended harbor and attach underwater explosives to the hull of the vessel. The ship sunk within minutes of the blast. The sound of the explosion resonated throughout the local area and in effect, continues today as security professionals scramble to prevent a reoccurrence. If the LTTE can operate at will in the face of a tight security posture, the safety of other maritime areas in the region are at risk.
Investigators are looking at the possibility that the rebels entered the harbor onboard a local Indian Oil Company vessel. As regular operators within the area, the oil company boats are not checked. As an alternative consideration, the LTTE members may have been insiders working within the harbor.
The Sri Lankan investigators must quickly determine how this attack was precipitated. Otherwise, other targets within the harbor, including the co-located naval base will eventually be hit.
The Author: Anthony M. Davis is the author of “Terrorism and the Maritime Transportation System.” He is the Founder of the Homeland Security Group.