November 02, 2007

LTTE leader killed in airstrike

As part of an ongoing campaign to remind readers that insurgencies aren't only confined to Iraq and Afghanistan, Charlie directs your attention to this NYT report:

The political head of the Tamil Tigers rebel group was killed today in an attack by the Sri Lankan Air Force, the group said in a statement. The leader, S. P. Tamilselvan, and five other rebel officials were killed during a 6 a.m. aerial strike on their headquarters in the north, Kilinochchi, the group said.


The senior rebel leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, is rarely seen. Mr. Tamilselvan was the official who met with peace envoys and talked to journalists, and his death leaves the group with no obvious public face.

The Tamil Tigers are among the most well-organized, most adaptive, and most effective insurgents in the world today. Suicide vests? They invented them. Devastating amphibious attacks (e.g., the USS Cole)? Perfected by the Sea Tigers. Charlie isn't interested in romanticizing these guys, but they're definitely worthy of serious study. (She'll let Abu Muqawama comment on their links to Hezbullah.)

If we believe, as Charlie does, that insurgencies are ultimately political, the elimination of their political interlocutor is a serious blow. Not that it reduces their operational effectiveness (though clearly there was an intel breech that allowed the Sri Lankan air force to target 6 leaders simultaneously). But it does mean that any political negotiations related to an independent or autonomous Tamil Eelam are set back.

Any Sri Lanka / LTTE experts among the readership? Sound off in the comments.