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Shifting the Narrative on the War on Terrorism due to Little Sri Lanka: Part 5 Suicide Bombers

June 17, 2011

Shifting the Narrative on the War on Terrorism due to Little Sri Lanka: Part 5 Suicide Bombers

First published May 25th 2009 04:05


The suicide vest as invented by the LTTE. Very much like a claymore mine that you strap on


Suicide Bombers: The Third Mistake that the LTTE made.

Nothing represents fanaticism more than a suicide bomber. It shows dedication to a cause that is beyond a person’s natural will to exist. Yet takes what is seen as noble, martyrdom and perverts its meaning to the point where it has the opposite meaning. People fear suicide bombers because such people have no qualms about killing others in their own flash of Earthly glorification. How they are treated in the next life or incarnation may be less glorious. The glorification of suicide attacks is nothing new. The Kamikaze pilots of Japan gave evidence to that. Strangely, when most people think of suicide bombers they exclusively think of Middle Eastern fanatical Muslims. However this was not the origins or the source of the greatest number of suicide bombings. Sri Lanka was and it was the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) rebels who brought to the rest of the world.

The most famous use of the suicide jacket was with the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991. 20 people were killed in the blast and scores of others were injured. As time progressed others were added to the list until it became the signature of the LTTE. To date Sri Lanka still holds the record for the most number of people killed by suicide bombers. This record seems set to remain in place for some time because more suicide bombings have been perpetrated by the LTTE than the rest of the world combined. In the LTTE it was the Black Tiger units that trained and sent the suicide bombers out. Nearly half were female.

Capturing a suicide bomber is rare because often they either blow themselves up or swallow the cyanide that hangs around their neck constantly. However some have been captured and they give an interesting insight into how a Black Tiger suicide bomber is prepared for their mission. French magazine Marie Claire interviewed on such female suicide bomber that the Sri Lankan authorities manage to arrest before she had time to carry out her mission. She was called Menake in the interview to disguise her real name and she now languishes in a maximum security prison In Sri Lanka.

Former Female Black Tiger Suicide Bomber. Captured in Colombo.

Many of the female suicide bombers have similarities in their backgrounds that make them excellent candidates for the Job. Menake claims she was repeatedly raped by her father when she was just seven years of age. Victims of rape become tainted goods and unmarriageable by becoming human bombs they can purify themselves. When Menake was 17 the LTTE demanded that every Tamil family must give at least one member of the family male or female to the war effort. Her family gave her up.

The training camp was harsh with rigid rules against alcohol, drugs, cigarettes and unlawful sex. Prabhakaran personally shot two of his closest aides when he caught them having sex. LTTE Cadres can only marry after they turn 35 for a female or 40 for a male. Army roles in the LTTE are gender neutral which one of the reasons why it has attracted so many women.

The day starts at 4am and continues on till late with, push-ups, drills, weapons training and heavy political indoctrination. Escape attempts from the camp were rare and those that did try were captured and never seen again.

Menake decided to join the Black Tigers after she fell from a tractor and suffering nerve damage to her spine. The doctor advised that she may become paralysed one day. She says that she was depressed and decided that death was a better option. In 2006 after the Cease Fire Agreement came into force Menake was given her mission and last meal before setting off.

The LTTE calls its suicide missions thatkodai, Tamil for “gift of self“. The Black Tigers were taught to kill and to forget about their victims. When given a mission they were also assigned a handler to ensure that they focused upon their victim. The handler often looks after several suicide bombers and encourages them to follow through with their mission.

Menake moved to Colombo to perform surveillance of her target. She even bought a sequined top to distract people from the bulge of her suicide vest. Yet after one of her clumsy attempts at surveillance she was arrested and interrogated by the Sri Lankan authorities. Her mission was over and after arrest what gave her away was the vile of cyanide that all LTTE cadres must carry.

I relayed this account to show that suicide bombers are not always the monsters that they are made out to be. Instead they are quite normal people who do monstrous act in the name of a higher ideal. In the case of the LTTE propaganda it was the “gift of self.” After years of indoctrination and being lied to it is hard to imagine how such people could make proper judgments for themselves. However Menake is still in prison for very good reasons. She was coldly plotting the death of another human being in the same way an animal would stalk its prey. The true irony of this situation is that Menake now wants to live and fears being killed by the LTTE for speaking out.

It is hard to say how much of what she says is true and how much is playing for sympathy. Either way it is wasted life. What about those that sent her?

There have been dozens of stories just like Menake that ended with a blast aimed at one person but left other killed in the area. Suicide bombers may strike fear into the hearts of enemies but they also strike down the innocent bystanders whose lives are seen as worthless.

The biggest legacy of the LTTE was the exportation of the suicide jacket around the world. The sense of injustice that it created showed what they were capable of. This strategy was monumental mistake

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