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Cablegate: Embassy Colombo Eac Meeting 08/27/2008 in Wake Of

VZCZCXYZ0006
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLM #0807/01 2401035
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 271035Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 8601

UNCLAS COLOMBO 000807

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

DEPARTMENT FOR DS/IP/RD/SCA, DS/DSS/ITA AND SCA/INS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC CASC CE MARR PTER
SUBJECT: EMBASSY COLOMBO EAC MEETING 08/27/2008 IN WAKE OF
LTTE AIR TIGER ATTACK IN THE EAST

1. (SBU) Summary: AmEmbassy Colombo convened a meeting of the
Emergency Action Committee (EAC) on August 27, 2008 to
discuss post's security posture in light of an attack on a
Sri Lanka naval base in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka. The attack
occurred during the evening of August 26, 2008. GSL police
and military sources informed the Embassy that the air wing,
or "Air Tigers," of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
(LTTE) bombed the base at approximately 21:30 hr. local time.
The EAC concurred that the actual threat did not, at this
juncture, warrant revisions to post's security posture or the
security advice to the general American community. End
summary.

2. (SBU) On August 27, 2008, AmEmbassy Colombo convened an
EAC meeting. Present for the meeting were the Ambassador,
Acting Deputy Chief of Mission, Regional Security Officer,
Political Officer, Economic Officer, Public Affairs Officer,
Consular Officer, Management Officer, International
Broadcasting Bureau Station Manager, USAID Acting Director,
Officer in Charge of the Office of Defense Cooperation,
Defense Attach Office's Operations Coordinator and the
Marine Security Guard Detachment Commander. The agenda items
for the meeting were:

-- The attack on the naval base in Trincomalee, which the GSL
attributed to the LTTE Air Tigers

-- Post's security posture in light of the attack

-- Security posture for two groups of USG Amcit personnel who
were in Trincomalee

-- Possible revisions to post's advice to the general
American community

3. (SBU) According to GSL sources, the Sri Lanka Navy base in
Trincomalee (approximately 200 miles northeast of Colombo, on
the East coast) came under attack at around 21:30 hr. local
time (12:00 EDT) on August 26. Sources stated that at least
two light aircraft overflew the base and dropped two
improvised explosive devices, one of which exploded. GSL
interlocutors claimed that the aircraft belonged to the "Air
Tigers," as both the LTTE and the GSL refer to the LTTE's air
wing. These sources believed that the intended target was a
troop transport and supply ship. According to Navy officials,
anti-aircraft fire prevented the Air Tigers from reaching the
troop ship. The planes vectored toward a barracks for
enlisted personnel and dropped bombs on the barracks. One
bomb exploded, while the other reportedly failed to detonate.
Publicly, the GSL has stated that 10 or 11 people were
injured. However, some AmEmbassy officers received reports
that casualty figures were higher and that some seamen may
have been killed.

4. (SBU) At the time of the attack, there were two separate
groups of American citizen personnel in Trincomalee on
official USG business. One group (five people from USAID's
Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, or "OFDA") were lodged
in a hotel located about five miles from the naval base,
across Trincomalee Bay. The second group (two Raytheon radar
technicians) was housed on the Navy base itself. The Embassy
first learned of the attack when the OFDA officers contacted
their AID control officer to report that a fire fight had
erupted in Trincomalee. Although the OFDA personnel were not
endangered by the attack, hotel staff chose to move them into
another area of the facility. Although the Raytheon
technicians were actually on the base, Embassy personnel
learned that the technicians had not been too close to the
attack site and were apparently in no danger, though they
heard explosions. As of the morning of September 27, the
Raytheon technicians had chosen to remain on base to complete
their work. Meanwhile, the OFDA officers had departed
Trincomalee, not in response to the attack, but rather to
continue with their scheduled travel to other areas in the
Eastern Province.

4. (SBU) The RSO commented that this incident fit the pattern
of other LTTE attacks - the Air Tigers flew at night and
were selective in their targeting. The targets were military
ones, vice civilian, even though there are many potential
civilan targets located in Trincomalee town and surrounding
areas. The RSO further opined that it was reasonable to
assume that as the noose tightens on the LTTE in the Northern
Province (the Sri Lanka Army reports that it is within 12
kilometers of Kilinochchi, the LTTE's de facto capital), the
terrorist organization would conduct reprisal attacks in
other areas of Sri Lanka. Reprisal attacks and diversionary
tactics are also standard operating procedures for the LTTE
when it seeks to relieve pressure on the North. Therefore,
this attack was another in a long series and did not indicate

a change in tactics or an increased threat to either the
official or expatriate American communities.

5. (SBU) The EAC concurred that the true threat remains being
in the wrong place at the wrong time - i.e. in proximity to
an LTTE attack on a GSL military, political, economic or law
enforcement target, and thus becoming an unintended victim of
the attack. The EAC agreed that this attack did not represent
a change in LTTE tactics. Therefore, there was nothing new to
report to either the official or expatriate American
communities. Accordingly, the EAC decided that it was not
necessary, at this time, to either revise post's security
posture or amend the security advice that post provides to
the general American community. The EAC further decided that
official Americans may continue travel to Trincomalee for
business purposes without waiting for approval from the RSO
and DCM. The restricted travel policy will continue to
proscribe personal travel to Trincomalee for the official
American community for the foreseeable future. The Ambassador
agreed with the EAC's recommendations.

6. (U) Post will continue to monitor the security environment
and will report further developments, if any, septel. POC
for this message is RSO Michael V. Perkins, who may be
contacted at 94.11.249.8885, 94.11.249.8888 (MSG Post 1 after
regular business hours), perkinsmv@state.gov (unclassified
email), or perkinsmv@state.sgov.gov (classified email).
BLAKE

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