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Home > News > Columnists > B Raman

Prabhakaran becomes vulnerable to air strike

November 02, 2007

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What game is Prabhakaran playing now?

S Cheeran, secretary-general at the headquarters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, has announced the death of S P Thamilchelvan, head of the political wing of the LTTE, and five others in a decapitation air strike by the Sri Lankan Air Force on the residential complex of the members of the political wing at Kilinochi at 6 am on November 2.

The news of their death in an air strike was uploaded in the LTTE's web site ( at 1 pm IST. One does not know at what time Cheeran made the announcement. Presuming the web announcement must have been shortly after the official announcement, the LTTE has taken roughly six hours to admit the successful execution of a decapitation strike by the SLAF.

Prabhakaran wants to build bridges with India now

For the last one year, the SLAF has been repeatedly trying for decapitation strikes on Prabhakaran and other leaders of the LTTE. However, these strikes were not successful. The killing of Thamilchelvan and his associates is the first success in the SLAF's decapitation drive.

Thamilchelvan was the LTTE's public face and used to interact openly with media personalities and foreign visitors to his office. His location and the place of his residence were well known. Keeping in view the decapitation operation launched by the SLAF last year, it is surprising he and his associates did not take the normal precautions such as changing their residence frequently. Since the LTTE does not have a radar and anti-aircraft equipment at Kilinochi, the only way of protecting them was through precautions such as these. Possible negligence in taking these precautions has cost their lives.

Since this was a targeted attack on senior leaders of the LTTE, the SLAF had every right to mount this strike, which did not target civilians. Till now, the LTTE itself has not alleged any civilian casualties.

What game is Prabhakaran playing now?

The successful decapitation strike would be a morale-booster for the SLAF after the setback suffered by it recently at Anuradhapura where a squad of 21 Black Tiger commandoes, in coordination with two planes of the LTTE's air wing, raided the SLAF base and destroyed at least eight aircraft/helicopers, including a well-equipped spy plane. No combat aircraft was damaged or destroyed in that raid. The SLAF's combat capability is thus intact and it has used it effectively.

The successful air strike at Kilinochi will encourage the SLAF to re-double its efforts for a decapitation strike on Prabhakaran himself. He becomes more vulnerable to an air strike than in the past.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies E-Mail:

B Raman