Tamils mark Black Tigers' Day
[TamilNet, Sunday, 06 July 1997, 23:59 GMT]
Across the Vanni, Tamil people marked Black Tigers' day by with traditional religious ceremonies, lighting oil lamps in prayer. Black Tigers are one of the LTTE's elite fighting units, whose members execute missions which carry a high degree of risk and in some cases certain death.
Tamil households across the Vanni marked the 5th of July in remembrance
of nearly hundred Black Tigers (including at least 16 women commandos)
who have died in the past 10 years. Processions also carried the
portraits of local volunteers who died in operations against the Sri
Lankan military. The Tamil Eelam national flag fluttered in prominent
The parents of Black Tigers killed in action also participated in the
ceremonies. Like their children, the parents are also revered by their
The 5th of July is the anniversary of one of the first Black Tiger
deaths. Cpt. Miller drove a truck full of explosives into a Sri Lankan
army base in July 1987. At least 120 soldiers were killed in the
explosion and the ensuing ground assault. Miller was unable to get clear
and was also killed in the blast.
Since then, several Tamil commandos have died in similar attacks. Some
have survived, including another Black Tiger who drove his charges into a
camp shortly after Miller's attack. Black Tigers have destroyed several
naval craft and military installations, killing several hundred Sri
Lankan military personnel.
They are trained in escape and evasion tactics and have been able to
penetrate the Sri Lankan government's most secure installations. In March
this year, at least 15 Black Tigers penetrated the sprawling SLAF base at
China bay, Trincomalee. They destroyed several buildings and slipped away
having rendered the airfield inoperable, whilst losing 3 of their
The Black (Sea) Tigers have successfully penetrated three of the Sri
Lankan navy's four main HQs, destroying several naval craft. The SLN has
also lost several craft in engagements with the Black (Sea) Tigers,
including the Shanghai class gunboat which went down with its 40 crew in
Black Tigers' identities are closely guarded. Having completed their
training, they serve in regular LTTE units, concealing their membership.
When called up for a mission, they take routine leave and if they
survive, return to regular service again. Membership is only revealed if
they are killed in combat.
The Sri Lankan government and press demonise the Black Tigers as
fanatical 'suicide bombers' in an attempt to exploit Western discomfort
with the concept, and to draw critical parallels with other parts of the
A British a film crew which met up with some Black Tigers in the east of
the island last year, discounted government claims that the Tigers were
irrational or drug-crazed. The Sri Lankan government tried
unsuccessfully to prevent the film being shown in England.
In fact, the Black Tigers constitute a successful military unit which has
inflicted disproportionately severe physical and psychological damage on
the Sri Lankan military, the latter with the help of the Sri Lankan
government's own propaganda. The commandos are some of the LTTE's best
fighters and often have several years combat experience.
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.