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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2252

Denying Coastline Access to the LTTE is Starving them of Weapons

In the last three months the Sri Lankan Security Forces have captured much of the coastline held by the Tamil Tigers. By denying coastline access to the LTTE, they are being starved out of their re-supply capability. These observations were made by Shanaka Jayasekara, at the World Summit on Counter Terrorism in Herzliya, Israel (8-11 Sept) hosted by the International Institute for Counter Terrorism, Israel.

Mr Jayasekara, an Associate Lecturer at the Centre for Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism (PICT) at Macquarie University in Sydney, was a guest speaker at the World Summit on Counter Terrorism in Israel. He was speaking on the nexus between Islamist militants and nationalist terror groups with particular reference to weapons procurement networks.

In his presentation, he highlighted the growing concern over Eritrea as a major hub and transshipment point for the informal arms market in the horn of Africa and also the role of Eritrea as a key weapons supplier to the Islamist groups in Somalia. He stated that since independence Eritrea has been engaged in a protracted war with its larger and more powerful neighbor Ethiopia over disputed territorial claims. Following the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia and Ethiopian support to the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Somalia, Eritrea pursued a strategy of supporting the opponents of the Ethiopian invasion. The Islamic Court Union a constituent member of the Union of Islam (Al Ittihad al Islamiya) headed by Hassan Dahir Aweys had control of southern areas of Somalia and the Bakaaraha arms market in Mogadishu. As a result of the Ethiopian invasion, the ICU lost much of its control and influence. This resulted in several splinter groups known as Al Shabaab (the youth) a younger breed of Jihadists emerged to fill the power vacuum. The two most prominent Shabaab groups are the Hizbul Shabaab (Party of Youth) and the Popular Resistance Movement in the Land of the Two Migrations (PRM).

The Shabaab groups have Jihadist objectives and recruits to wage war against the enemies of Islam, intertwined with opposition to the Ethiopian incursion. It is believed that Aden Hashi Farah (aka Ayro) a protégé of Awey’s has a prominent leadership position within Shabaab. In a statement made by a Somali Cabinet Minister in March 2007 suggests that Ayro has been appointed AQ leader for the Horn, but this has never been corroborated. Eritrea is accused of providing weapons and training to the Shabaab groups.

The UN arms embargo on Ethiopia and Eritrea set the stage for a flourishing informal arms market in the horn. Many merchants of death (arms dealers) disposing stockpiles from eastern European states found sanctuary in Eritrea. The fusion of these dynamics resulted in Eritrea becoming a hub for the informal arms market. The LTTE has an active presence in Eritrea with members of the procurement unit and a shipping front suspected to be operating in the country.

On 24 May 2006, an Asian intelligence agency intercepted a fax sent by the Tamil Tigers using a satellite phone connection to the President of Eritrea, Isaias Afewerki. The fax was signed by leader of the Tamil Tigers Velupillai Prabakaran. The Eritrean-LTTE relationship was further documented in the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee report dated 15 December 2006 in which it stated that the Eritrean government provided direct support to the LTTE. It is believed the LTTE engages in Consolidated Purchasing with other groups including Islamist groups operating in the Eritrean arms market.

Mr Jayasekara also credited much of the battlefield success of the Sri Lankan Security Forces to the technological advantage resulting from Israeli hardware. The frontline attack craft of the Sri Lankan Airforce and Navy are of Israeli origin as well as reconnaissance drones such as the Searcher Mark II have played an indispensable role in the fight against the LTTE.

- Asian Tribune -

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