LTTE ranks swelling: Sri Lankan Military Intelligence

[TamilNet, Sunday, 29 June 1997, 23:59 GMT]
Sources close to the Sri Lankan Directorate of Military Intelligence told Asia Week magazine that not only has the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence (MoD) woefully underestimated LTTE troop numbers, but that the LTTE is continuing to attract large numbers of fresh volunteers. The MoD is also claiming fictitious military successes according to the Sri Lankan sources.

The June 27, 1997 issue of Asia Week reports that sources close to Sri Lankan Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) say that contrary to the Sri Lankan government's claim of the LTTE having only 8000 troops, the Tigers are fielding over 15,000 fighters.

In addition, as TamilNet reported last week, the DMI sources told Asia Week that Tiger troop numbers are growing, not shrinking. The sources attribute this to "the government's tactics which inevitably affect civilians". The latter refers to the deliberate shelling and bombing of Tamil towns and villages by the predominantly Sinhalese Sri Lankan armed forces.

"These large-scale conventional operations are resulting in a large number of displaced civilians and civilian casualties," one DMI source told Asia Week. "That means the Tigers are having no trouble gaining new recruits."

The lower estimates of Tiger troop strength and claims of military success are driven by political requirements, not reality, the DMI sources also told Asia Week.

The Sri Lankan military has often exaggerated claims of Tiger casualties, whilst playing down its own. This is necessary for the government to maintain political support amongst the Sinhalese majority, and to sustain morale amongst the military ranks.

However, Asia Week also said that skeptics were wondering if the new estimates were simply an excuse made by the military to explain why its current offensive has slowed. However, the number of 15,000 Tamil troops is broadly inline with estimates of 10-12,000 issued by Western military analysts early last year.

The LTTE intensified its campaign for independence following the island wide pogrom against Tamils in July 1983. Over 50,000 Tamil civilians have been killed in the government's attempts to crush the Tamil struggle. In the 1977 elections, the Tamil people of the island voted overwhelmingly for parties supporting independence from Sri Lanka.

 

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