Friday, May 8, 2009

Beware of More Terrorist activities, US think tanker warns.........

The Conflict in Sri Lanka: A Cornered Tiger Is Still Deadly

By Fred Burton and Scott Stewart @

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake told parliament May 5 that he believes Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam leader Velupillai Prabhakaran is among the large group of Tiger militants trapped in a 4-square kilometer coastline area near Mullaitivu. The area around Mullaitivu has been the final focal point of a recent larger government military offensive aimed at restoring government control of northeast Sri Lanka and crushing the South Asian country’s separatist rebels, who have controlled large parts of the region for the past several years.

The Tigers’ battlefield losses have been compounded by the severe disruption to their formerly extensive financial network (primarily concentrated among the Tamil diaspora in Western Europe and Canada) after the European Union placed the group on its terror list in 2006. This led to tightened sanctions by Europe, the United States and Canada against the Tigers, as well as greater international cooperation in arresting Tiger smuggling rings. Some of the Tigers’ main financiers have since been arrested, and many of their assets have been frozen. It takes a lot of money and equipment to wage a conventional war, and those resources have become far harder for the Tigers to come by of late.

As STRATFOR has previously noted, if Sri Lankan troops manage to crush the remnants of the Tigers’ hard-pressed conventional military forces, the Tigers will have little choice but to give up on conventional warfare (at least for the time being). But the Tigers’ separatist struggle is more than 30 years old and has been marked by great brutality on both sides. Because of this, there is very little chance the Tigers will simply accept defeat and fade into history. Instead, now that the government has the military advantage, the Tigers can be expected to continue their war against the government by melting back into the populace and resorting to guerrilla tactics and terrorism.

In many ways, this will resemble events in Iraq and Afghanistan, where a militarily weaker force melted away in the face of a more powerful conventional military force. The Tigers, however, have a far more experienced and effective terrorist apparatus than either their Taliban or Iraqi counterparts. This struggle will therefore remain bloody in Sri Lanka (and perhaps even abroad).


The Tigers are battling for the creation of an independent Tamil homeland for the country’s 10-15 percent Tamil minority, the dominant ethnicity in northern and eastern Sri Lanka. The Tigers are struggling against the majority Sinhalese Buddhist-controlled government, which has fought the Tigers in a bloody civil war that has lasted nearly three and a half decades. Over the decades, the Tigers have developed an extremely sophisticated paramilitary organization. This force consists of not only ground forces (complete with artillery and even some armor), but also a sea wing that engages in arms smuggling and naval attacks against the Sri Lankan Navy — to include suicide boat attacks — a small air wing, and an elite force of militants trained to conduct assassinations and terrorist attacks known as the Black Tigers.

The Black Tigers became famous for suicide bombings (one of which killed former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991), and we are hard-pressed to think of another militant group that has assassinated as many VIPs, including several Cabinet ministers and numerous members of parliament, as have the Black Tigers. Last year alone, they killed a Sri Lankan member of parliament on Jan. 1, the minister for nation building on Jan. 8, and the highway minister on April 7. They also killed the Sri Lankan foreign minister in August 2005.

The Tigers’ fortunes have fluctuated over the years. Several times they have brought large swathes of northern and eastern Sri Lanka under their exclusive control, only to lose them to government offensives, such as an offensive launched in January 2001. As mentioned, international pressures on their finances and logistics in recent years, plus the loss of the strategically significant Elephant Pass in January — formerly a key logistics hub for their resupply efforts and an important base for their naval efforts — mean the Tigers are now in an uphill battle for survival. Compounding the Tigers’ woes, the government now is far better prepared, equipped and trained than it has been during previous military offensives. But despite being so hard-pressed and having taken such significant losses, there are no signs that the Tigers have lost the will to fight. They continue to hold out rather than surrender, and we have not seen news of desertions.

The Tigers’ material losses will be more difficult to overcome than their loss of personnel. They should be able to find new volunteers (or conscripts) among Sri Lanka’s Tamil population. Their ability to recruit should be aided by the Sri Lankan military’s policy of forcing Tamils into internment camps, something the Tigers also have leapt on as an international propaganda opportunity. Tiger militants are well-trained and are also subject to rigorous political indoctrination. With rare exception, the Tigers prefer to fight — or take their standard-issue cyanide capsules — and die rather than surrender.

This willingness for self-sacrifice is best seen in the Black Tigers, which were early adopters of suicide bombing attacks and have been among the most frequent users of the tactic. The Black Tigers also have employed more female suicide bombers than any other group. (They used a female suicide operative in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination.) The Black Tigers reportedly have a waiting list of militants seeking to enter the unit — suicide bombers reportedly are held in almost mythical esteem by their ordinary Tiger colleagues — and Prabhakaran reportedly handpicks each member.

Insurgency and Terror

As seen from Iraq, Afghanistan and any number of historical examples, it is very difficult to eradicate an insurgency that can blend in with a sympathetic local population. Doing so is even harder when the insurgents can exploit international borders to create a place of refuge. Although Sri Lanka is an island, it is located very close to the coast of India. It lies just a few miles from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, an Indian state that, as its name implies, has a substantial ethnic Tamil population. Some Indian Tamils are sympathetic to the Tigers, and the Tigers have established a sizable presence in Tamil Nadu.

Sympathy in Tamil Nadu for the Tigers came into view May 5, 2009, when a large group of pro-Tiger Indian Tamil activists blocked a convoy of Indian army trucks in the city of Coimbatore because they believed the trucks were carrying supplies destined for the Sri Lankan military. The activists reportedly damaged and ransacked some of the trucks.

Support in Tamil Nadu means that the Tigers can — and do — exploit the international border to their advantage. The Tigers use India in much the same way that the Taliban and al Qaeda use Pakistan. The Tigers’ logistical and training infrastructure in India is especially important during times (like the present) when the Sri Lankan government is hammering them. The Tigers also have a long history of working with an array of other militant groups in India and the general region. This cooperation is not based on ideology, but rather on mutual benefit, such as bolstering the groups’ ability to smuggle weapons and other goods.

Another truism about insurgency is that it takes far fewer resources to sustain an insurgency than it does to fight a conventional war. The amount of ordnance expended in a single conventional battle can sustain months or even years of insurgent activity, especially if the insurgents can acquire ordnance from their enemy during their operations. Conducting terrorist attacks requires even fewer resources than insurgent attacks; terrorism is a cheap and time-tested means of hitting a militarily superior foe. When properly conducted, terrorist attacks are the ultimate exercise of asymmetrical warfare.

For a militant group to effectively wield terrorism as an asymmetrical weapon, however, it must gain mastery of a range of tactical skills that we refer to as terrorist tradecraft. These skills include, among other things, the ability to operate without being detected, the ability to collect intelligence on potential targets, the ability to procure munitions, the ability to recruit operatives, the ability to plan effective strikes and the ability to construct reliable improvised explosives devices (IEDs).

Through decades of trial and error, the Tigers have developed all of these skills, as evidenced by their large number of successful assassinations. In fact, they have a record of tactical success that would make any jihadist group green with envy. The Tigers excel at collecting intelligence, and their female operatives form a significant part of their intelligence apparatus, since they generally can travel more widely than males can and do not tend to arouse suspicions to the extent male operatives do. Female Tigers who are already willing to serve as suicide bombers not surprisingly have been willing to use seduction to obtain information critical to their cause.

The group has also long demonstrated the ability to operate in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, as well as in other non-Tamil majority areas. And it has conducted scores of attacks against military, financial and political targets and civilian soft targets in non-Tamil areas. The group conducted five suicide bombings in Colombo alone in 2008, and several attacks against soft targets like passenger buses and commuter trains. The group also has a cadre of very polished and experienced bombmakers who make reliable and effective IEDs.

Perhaps most spectacularly, the Tiger air wing launched a 9/11-inspired airborne suicide attack Feb. 20, in which their two remaining aircraft were loaded with explosives and sent out after dark on a suicide mission to attack Colombo. One of the planes was shot down, but the other plane reached the capital and struck the 12th floor of the 15-floor Inland Revenue Department, where it exploded — a scene captured by a Sri Lankan navy infrared camera and posted to YouTube.

It is thought that the Inland Revenue Department was not the intended target, but that the plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire and accidentally struck that building. According to Sri Lankan sources, the intended target may have been either the headquarters of the Sri Lankan air force, which is next to the building that was hit, or the president’s house or army headquarters, which also are close by. The decision to use the remaining Tiger aircraft in this type of suicide operation against the government in Colombo rather than risk losing them to advancing government troops is a prime example of the Tigers’ mind-set.

Mayhem in the Forecast

With the Tigers’ air wing now apparently gone, further 9/11-style suicide planes are unlikely. The Tigers, however, will almost certainly plan more terrorist strikes. Such attacks will be seen as retaliation against the Sri Lankan government. They also will be used to hurt the economy (and thus the government’s ability to finance its military efforts). And they will be used to force the government to divert troops from the northeast to provide security to other parts of the country, thus taking pressure off the Tamil heartland. The Tigers also have shown a limited cyberwarfare capability, which they can be expected to use to score propaganda points and wreak economic havoc when possible. In addition to assassinating VIPs and attacking passenger trains and buses, the Tigers have a long history of attacking villages and massacring Sinhalese Buddhist and Muslim civilians to foster a sense of terror.

We anticipate that small Tamil units will resume operations to massacre civilians, in particular Sinhalese Buddhist and Muslim civilians. The Tigers also probably will attack crowds of civilians and commercial centers. We also anticipate assassination attempts to be launched against military and political VIPs in Colombo, and against local/regional leaders and military and police commanders in the northeast. Attacks against passenger trains and buses also can be expected. STRATFOR sources in Sri Lanka advise that the Tigers are likely to strike at the Yal Devi Express, a train that runs from Colombo to Vavuniya and is of great symbolic value to Tamil-Sinhalese coexistence.

We believe there will be numerous attacks and ambushes targeting traffic on the A-9 road that leads from Colombo to Jaffna aimed at both military and commercial targets, blending terrorism and insurgency. Such attacks could involve ambushes and roadside IEDs, a tactic the Tigers have used with success in the past, such as with the roadside IED used in the January 2008 assassination of the minister of nation building.

Due to the long history of conflict in Sri Lanka (which has sometimes been fueled by external meddling), we do not share the assessment by some in the Sri Lankan government that the Tigers are all but dead. They may be severely damaged as a conventional military force — for a time at least — but the group’s cadre of dedicated, zealous militants will certainly spill a lot more blood in their quest for independence and vengeance against the Sri Lankan government.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Cyber Terrorism, Let's Get Prepared!

The official website of Sri Lanka Army, has been hacked by suspected LTTE hackers this morning (May 1). The Webmaster of the Army called the attack a desperate bid by the LTTE propagandists to hold the truth on humanitarian mission being revealed to the world. He said measures are being taken to restore the website soon. (1) In addition, the government newsportal, www, has also been hacked by suspected LTTE hackers, this morning. 

The internet has fast infiltrated the society and culture of today’s world. The computers are assigned more responsible and computer networks have proven to be extremely useful in all aspects of life. Important information is stored in computers and access to such data bases can cause serious harm.

Cyberterrorism is defined as “The premeditated use of disruptive activities, or the threat thereof, against computers and/or networks, with the intention to cause harm or further social, ideological, religious, political or similar objectives. Or to intimidate any person in furtherance of such objectives.” This definition was created by Kevin G. Coleman of the Technolytics Institute. (2)
This can include use of information technology to organize and execute attacks against networks, computer systems and telecommunications infrastructures, or for exchanging information or making threats electronically. Examples are
· hacking into computer systems
· introducing viruses to vulnerable networks
· web site defacing, denial-of-service attacks
· or terroristic threats made via electronic communication. (3)
An example of cyber-terrorism could be hacking into a hospital computer system and changing someone's medicine prescription to a lethal dosage as an act of revenge. It sounds far fetched, but these things can and do happen. (4)
Some Examples (2)
1. Terrorists in Romania illegally gained access to the computers controlling the life support systems at an Antarctic research station, endangering the 58 scientists involved. However, the culprits were stopped before damage actually occurred.
2. In May 2007 Estonia was subjected to a mass cyber-attack in the wake of the removal of a Russian World War II war memorial from downtown Talinn. The attack was a distributed denial of service attack in which selected sites were bombarded with traffic in order to force them offline; nearly all Estonian government ministry networks as well as two major Estonian bank networks were knocked offline; in addition, the political party website of Estonia's current Prime Minister Andrus Ansip featured a counterfeit letter of apology from Ansip for removing the memorial statue.
3. In October 2007, the website of Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko was attacked by hackers. A radical Russian nationalist youth group, the Eurasian Youth Movement, claimed responsibility.
The Implications
Cyberterrorism can have serious implications on countries, their people and economy. Internet based business can break down. Computer system damages can have serious financial implications and the loss of certain data cannot be estimated financially.
Here are few key things to remember to pretect yourself from cyber-terrorism:
All accounts should have passwords and the passwords should be unusual, difficult to guess.
Change the network configuration when defects become know.
Check with venders for upgrades and patches.
Audit systems and check logs to help in detecting and tracing an intruder.
If you are ever unsure about the safety of a site, or receive suspicious email from an unkown address, don't access it. It could be trouble. (4)

Works Cited
1. Ministry of Defence Sri Lanka. News. [Online] 05 01, 2009. [Cited: 05 01, 2009.]
2. Wikipedia. [Online] [Cited: May 01, 2009.]
3. [Online] [Cited: 05 01, 2009.]
4. Computer Ethics. Jimmy Sproles, Will Byars. 1988.

The Swine Fever Epidemic

The Current Situation of Swine Fever
According to the World Health Organization, the situation continues to evolve rapidly. As of 06:00 GMT, 1 May 2009, 11 countries have officially reported 331 cases of influenza A(H1N1) infection.
The United States Government has reported 109 laboratory confirmed human cases, including one death. Mexico has reported 156 confirmed human cases of infection, including nine deaths.
The following countries have reported laboratory confirmed cases with no deaths – Austria, Canada , Germany , Israel , Netherlands, New Zealand , Spain , Switzerland and the United Kingdom . (1)

The agent:
The causative agent of Swine fever is a flu virus. This virus often infects pigs, however they can rarely spread to humans. This may be due to being in close contacts with an infected pig. The virus causing swine Influenza among human is being described by the USA as a new subtype of A/H1N1 not previously detected in swine or humans. Genetically it is a reassortant of America-Eurasian swine influenza virus. This swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is contagious and is spreading from human to human.

The host:
Pigs provide an excellent host for this. The new version has developed the ability to spread among humans, who then infect each other through coughing and sneezing.

The Environment:
The international travel has created an environment which facilitates the spread of this virus.

The Symptoms:
The symptoms are the same as with normal flu: fever, coughing, sore throat, body aches. Several of those diagnosed with swine flu after trips to Mexico mistook the first signs as the effects of jetlag. Some patients have also reported diarrhoea and vomiting. In Mexico, those who have died suffered from pneumonia and respiratory failure.
Victims will have a temperature, and many airports are fitting scanners so that people arriving from affected areas with a fever can be quarantined. Outside Mexico the virus appears milder than many had feared - although sufferers have been hospitalised.

Who is vulnerable?
According to reports so far, the new strain is most lethal to those in the 25 to 45 age range. This is ominous because it was the hallmark of the Spanish 1918 flu pandemic that killed tens of millions worldwide. However, the circumstances were quite different: many thousands of victims were young men recovering from service in World War One.
The H1N1 strain is far less dangerous than H5N1, or bird flu.

Containment of the Virus

In Mexico itself, mass gatherings are banned as are handshakes and kisses on the cheek. Schools and universities are currently closed. Restaurants in Mexico City have been ordered to close, too.

Is there a Vcaccine?
Not yet. A vaccine would take several months to prepare. (2)

Is it safe to eat pork and pork products?
Yes. Swine influenza has not been shown to be transmissible to people through eating properly handled and prepared pork (pig meat) or other products derived from pigs. The swine influenza virus is killed by cooking temperatures of 160°F/70°C, corresponding to the general guidance for the preparation of pork and other meat. (1)

Is Sri Lanka ready to face Swine Fever?
Yes. Many activities have been initiated in Sri Lanka through the Epidemiological Unit of Sri Lanka to face the epidemic. Some of the initiatives include(3):

A Fact Sheet has been prepared and distributed to all government and private health institutions, provincial and regional directors of health, regional epidemiologists, medical officers/maternal & child health and medical officers of health
A Health Alert has been sent to all government and private health institutions to initiate surveillance of suspected cases and collection of laboratory samples.
A special alert with guidelines has been sent to Airport health officer and the Port health officer to initiate specified vigilance and surveillance activities at these entry points. A letter of request on this alert were sent to Harbour Master at Colombo Port, Director General Civil Aviation Authority and Chairman Airport and Aviation Services
Twenty hospitals had already been identified as sentinel hospitals for pandemic influenza preparedness under the World Bank funded National Avian/Pandemic Influenza Programme and clinical case management capacity in these hospitals in a likely event had been strengthened by establishing/upgrading isolation units, supply of antiviral drug stocks and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and training of staff in pandemic preparedness and response including infection control.
Steps have been taken to strengthen the already available stocks of anti viral drugs and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at the identified sentinel hospitals and also at the Medical Supplies Division.

1. World Health Organization. World Health Organization. [Online] May 01, 2009. [Cited: May 01, 2009.]
2. The First Post. [Online],news,swine-fever-its-origins-and-symptoms-to-look-out-for.
3. The Epidemiological Unit of Sri Lanka. [Online] 2009. [Cited: 05 01, 2009.]