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Harkat repays an old debt to LTTE in Lahore?

March 03, 2009 13:26 IST
Six players of the Sri Lankan cricket team, which had arrived on a visit to Pakistan, are reported to have been injured and four policemen killed when 10 or more persons wielding hand-held weapons, including hand-grenades, attacked a bus in which the team was going to the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore on Tuesday morning.

The attack has been recorded on closed circuit TV and should enable the Pakistani authorities to identify the terrorists and the organisation to which they belong. The Sri Lankan government has advised the team to cancel the visit and return home.

While it is too early to assess as to who might have been responsible for the attack and why, one has to recall past instances of contacts of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam with the Harkat u -Mujahideen (known as the Harkat ul Ansar before 1997), a member of the International Islamic Front of the Al Qaeda, and the role played by the commercial ships of the LTTE in the 1990s in facilitating heroin smuggling from the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.

In 1993, the Indian Coast Guard intercepted an LTTE ship in which Kittu, an LTTE leader, was travelling from Karachi to the Wanni region of northern Sri Lanka. When cornered by the Coast Guard, the LTTE cadres on board the ship set fire to it and it sank.

Kittu chose to go down with the ship in order to avoid falling into the hands of the Coast Guard. Some members of the crew jumped from the sinking ship and were arrested and interrogated. The subsequent investigation brought out that the ship was carrying a consignment of arms and ammunition which was loaded by the HuM cadres at Karachi, in the presence of some officers of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence and the Pakistan navy.

Reports received in 1994-95 had indicated that the LTTE had helped the HuM in smuggling arms and ammunition in its ships to jihadi elements in southern Philippines and that in return for this the HuM and the ISI had gifted some anti-aircraft weapons, ammunition and surface-to-air missiles to the LTTE.

Since 9/11, this source for clandestine arms procurement and heroin smuggling for the LTTE has dried up due to the deployment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ships off Pakistan to prevent any shipping activity in support of the Al Qaeda.

The HuM continues to have an active presence in southern Philippines and the Harkat ul Jihad al Islami in the Arakan area of Myanmar and in southern Thailand. One cannot rule out the possibility of the HuM --- and possibly even the HuJI --- maintaining fraternal ties with the LTTE despite its Hindu/Christian background and past anti-Muslim policies in the areas controlled by it.

These are opportunistic alliances to assist each other and the fact that the LTTE had followed an anti-Muslim policy should not come in their way. In past articles, I had mentioned that the ISI's arms gifts to the LTTE despite its anti-Muslim policies started after its assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991.

Against this background, a possible line of enquiry should be whether the HuM or any of its allies in the IIF is repaying a debt to the LTTE for its past assistance by attacking the Sri Lankan cricket team.

The writer is Additional Secretary (retired), Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: