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Cablegate: Sri Lanka: Ltte "Sea Tiger" Suicide Attack On

VZCZCXRO2834
OO RUEHBI
DE RUEHLM #1722/01 2911213
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 181213Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4507
INFO RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME IMMEDIATE 0375
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 9506
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 6411
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 4462
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 3252
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 0075
RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO 3343
RUEHSM/AMEMBASSY STOCKHOLM 0406
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 2424
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI 6964
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI 4803
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1430

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 001722

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/INS
ROME FOR POL, LEE BROWN - PLEASE PASS TO A/S BOUCHER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PTER PHUM PREF MOPS CE
SUBJECT: SRI LANKA: LTTE "SEA TIGER" SUICIDE ATTACK ON
GALLE NAVAL BASE

REF: COLOMBO 1705 AND PREVIOUS

This message is sensitive but unclassified.

1. (SBU) Summary: On October 18, five "Sea Tiger" boats
disguised as fishing craft attacked the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN)
base in Galle Harbor, in Sri Lanka's south. Two of the
suicide boats detonated at the entrance to the harbor; the
Navy destroyed the three others before they could do much
damage. Two small SLN patrol craft were destroyed, but
merchant craft apparently escaped serious damage. Two SLN
sailors and two unidentified persons, probably port workers,
were killed. 15 SLN sailors and 14 civilians were injured.
The attack provoked angry demonstrations by Sinhalese gangs
seeking revenge against Tamil residents and shops in Galle,
but police quickly quelled the disturbances and placed Galle
under curfew until 6 a.m. Thursday. End Summary.

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Suicide Boats in Galle
----------------------

2. (SBU) The Government of Sri Lanka (GSL) Media Center for
National Security confirmed that two Liberation Tigers of
Tamil Eelam (LTTE) "Sea Tiger" boats exploded at the entrance
of the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) Headquarters at Galle Harbor on
the early morning of October 18, destroying two SLN patrol
craft. The Navy destroyed the remaining three suicide boats
before they could detonate against targets. The suicide
boats moved toward the naval base by hiding among fishing
boats in the adjoining harbor. Military spokesman Brigadier
Prasad Samarasinghe told pol FSN that two SLN sailors were
killed. Security forces said that two unidentified bodies,
initially thought to be LTTE suicide attackers, were probably
port workers. 15 SLN sailors and 14 civilians were injured.

Tamilnet Touts Tiger Action
---------------------------

3. (SBU) The pro-LTTE Tamilnet website reported that a
"15-member attack team" approached the naval base in five
boats, successfully detonating three suicide boats. The site
did not specifically claim that it was an LTTE operation.
The report added that amphibious attackers landed and fired
RPG rounds into the SLN base, followed by a ground attack on
the base lasting approximately two hours.

Police Avert Major Disturbances in Galle
----------------------------------------

4. (SBU) The LTTE attack sparked anti-Tamil demonstrations in
predominantly Sinhalese Galle, 70 miles south of Colombo.
Angry crowds gathered and reportedly threatened to set fire
to Tamil businesses. The Associated Press reported that
police wounded three people when firing on the demonstrators.
However, Deputy Inspector General of police in Galle told us
that his men had fired in the air, and denied reports of any
wounded. In any case, the prompt police response seems to
have averted a potential anti-Tamil riot. Authorities
immediately imposed a curfew until 6 A.M. on October 19.

5. (SBU) COMMENT: Neither the government nor the LTTE has yet
pulled out of peace talks scheduled for October 28-29 in
Geneva. With its first attack deep in the predominantly
Sinhalese south since the signing of the 2002 Ceasefire
Agreement, the LTTE clearly wants to send a message that it
can still strike anywhere. The latest Tiger attack on a
"southern" target, following a string of defeats at the hands
of GSL security forces over the past two months, may reflect
the LTTE's desire to approach the negotiating table from a
stronger military and propaganda position. However, some
observers believe that the LTTE aim is to provoke the

COLOMBO 00001722 002 OF 002


government into withdrawing from the talks. Japanese Peace
Envoy Akashi and Norwegian facilitator Hanssen-Bauer are both
in Sri Lanka engaging the government and LTTE to try to keep
new negotiating round in Geneva on track.
MOORE

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