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The Black Tigers

A formidable battlefield strategy

by S. Ravi, Viduthaalip Pulikal, September, 2008

translated from the Tamil by Appapillai Rajendra

The world that looks at suicide attacks directed on civilians as an act of terrorism views the war strategy used by the Black Tigers and the LTTE on the same lines. This is blasphemous.  In an inter-racial war between the Tamils and the Singhalese, the need for a strategy to safeguard the Tamils from the genocide perpetrated by the Sri Lankan Government should be well understood by the world. ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’ is an axiom in this context.   In the liberation struggle of the Tamils there is a dearth of personnel for combat, there is also a scarcity of ammunition to fight a war. The LTTE is saddled with the responsibility to make even this deficiency that exists in the Tamil community to save it from annihilation.

The war strategy of the Black Tigers plays an important role in the liberation struggle of the Tamils. Bravery, self-sacrifice with heroism, and the will to defeat tyranny are the hallmarks of their war strategy.

The Black Tigers occupy the zenith of the heroic war pursuits of the Tamils.

What is the need for the Black Tigers' battle strategy?

How did the Black Tigers emerge?

How does the International community view the war strategy of the Black Tigers?

How does this strategy affect the ethnic cleansing agenda of the Singhalese army? 

How does this strategy affect the Tamil national governance? 

The following essay attempts to answer these questions.

Black Tigers before mission with Pirapaharan October 22, 2007. Photo: LTTE

Taking into cognizance the ground realities for the liberation of Tamil Eelam, and following the traditions of armed conflict, the Tamil national leader Mr. V. Prapaharan formulated the war strategy of the Black Tigers. It is now twenty-one years since this new war strategy was introduced in Tamil Eelam, with the first Black Tiger attack carried out by Capt. Millar in 1987.

The need for the Black Tiger Strategy

The importance on the need of the Black Tiger battle strategy cannot be over emphasized. In order to face the unequal military resources that favor the Sri Lankan Army and to defeat them, the Tamil national leader, Pirapaharan initiated this new war strategy. One of the objectives of this strategy is to sacrifice a few lives and inflict maximum harm and damage to the Sri Lankan Army.

Population-wise the Singhalese outnumber the Tamils many-fold, and, as a consequence, the Singhalese army constitutes far too great a number of soldiers compared to that of the LTTE.

The successful strategy in the armed conflict dictates that the liberation of the Tamils could only be achieved by ingenuous combat operations to defeat the Sri Lankan Army in this inequality, because of their disproportionate numbers.

The LTTE, all the more, pays great importance in reducing the mortality of its cadre during conflict. If the Tamil militants want to reduce their death toll at the same time increase the carnage of the enemy, they have to display their valiant skills to inflict severe damage to the opposing army so as to cause a big dent to the enemy’s capabilities.  Keeping in line with this idealism, the Black Tigers have evolved into a formidable fighting force capable of striking surprise attacks whereby their death toll is reduced to the minimum, and this helps to boost their heroic battlefront competence.

There is always an element of awe, surprise, and fear caused by the pounding attacks of the Black Tigers, a technique very necessary to shatter the morale of the enemy. It is this kind of an onslaught that initially gives an upper hand to the Black Tigers when they attack an army camp, and which results in the successful demolition of the enemy camps.

There has always been a severe discrepancy in the possession of arms overtly more to the benefit of the Sri Lankan Army. Using its status as an elected government, the Singhalese government is at an advantage to procure large quantities of lethal weapons and use them against the Tamils.

The Tamils and their defending armed cadre are indiscriminately attacked by the Government forces by the most modern array of lethal weapons, but are denied their right to defend themselves, as the Government has blocked all their avenues of procurement of any weapons. The LTTE is compelled to set right this inequity thrust upon them in weaponry, and in order to confront the onslaught of the Government forces it has had to seek new avenues to overcome this inadequacy.

The Black Tiger outfit is designed to overcome this inadequacy in military needs. Sri Lanka has a large fleet of the most modern aircraft, long-range missiles and artillery, battle tanks, armored cars, and large stockpiles of ammunition.

Without destroying or incapacitating the enormous stockpile of lethal weaponry of the Sri Lankan Government, the LTTE cannot save the Tamils or liberate their homeland through traditional warfare, otherwise, the Government will be able to accomplish its program of genocide of the Tamils.

Therefore, to incapacitate the enormous firepower of the Sri Lankan Army the LTTE utilizes the self-sacrificing attack strategy by the Black Tigers.

The Black Tigers have utilized this strategy to rip apart Sri Lankan Air Force jets, artillery batteries, and military command centers, and instilled a fear psychosis in the ranks of the opposing armed forces. The LTTE, in using this strategy, has demonstrated to the Sri Lankan Government - and made them realize in no uncertain terms - that the Tamil aspirations and their firm determination to live free cannot be intimidated by military thuggery.  

There is no denying the fact that the Black Tiger strategy has achieved new heights in the military confrontation. The Black Tiger strategy is not only used on land, but is used in the sea in attacking the Sri Lankan Navy as well.

The LTTE does not have the luxury of large, powerful, and modern battleships like those possessed by the Sri Lankan Government, or anything close to it.  The Tigers possess only small fiberglass boats to fight the Navy’s sophisticated powerful battleships. Fighting the Sri Lankan navy is therefore comparable to the fight between David and Goliath. Like David, the Black Tigers use new and innovative tactics and have destroyed the Goliath-like, monstrous Sri Lankan Navy during many confrontations and sea battles. Although the Black Tiger boats may be small in size, their capabilities are increased by the will of the battle-hardened cadre to destroy and sink the Navy vessels. The unique talents of the Black Tigers have destroyed the enemy’s military assets inclusive of fighter jets and naval vessels.

The LTTE has been successful in gaining an equal fighting capability to face the Sri Lankan Army. In a war that is fought on racial lines by the Sri Lankan Government, it sees the Black Tiger strategy as a threat to its very army, despite the enormous stockpile of arms and ammunition and the far greater number of soldiers in its army.

The Singhalese army is in fear that the Black Tigers are in possession of an ultimate weapon that they do not have.  The Black Tigers have time and again broken through High Security Zones, searched and destroyed Government/Army assets and have instilled fear in the Army High Command. That is the reason the Government is attempting to destroy the Black Tiger outfit by targeting the Tamil civilians militarily, and misleading the International Community by false propaganda.

Ethnic Cleansing Agenda

In embodying the race hatred doctrines of the Singhalese-Buddhists in its policy, the Sri Lankan Government shows animosity towards the Tamils. This has been the vicious agenda of the Government for the annihilation of the Tamil Race so that the Island of Sri Lanka could be turned into an exclusive nation of Singhalese.

The three services of the Government forces, which are constituted exclusively of the Singhalese in their entirety, are utilized as a tool by the Sri Lankan Government to annihilate the Tamils. The Black Tigers have been engaged outside the theater of war in the destruction of the Army Command Centers that openly carry out the annihilation of the Tamils

International Community on the Black Tigers

At this juncture it is important to note how the International community views the Black Tiger strategy. They have a wrong notion of the strategy. The world that looks at suicide attacks directed on civilians as an act of terrorism views the war strategy used by the Black Tigers and the LTTE on the same lines. This is blasphemous.  In an inter-racial war between the Tamils and the Singhalese, the need for a strategy to safeguard the Tamils from the genocide perpetrated by the Sri Lankan Government should be well understood by the world. ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’ is an axiom in this context.   In the liberation struggle of the Tamils there is a dearth of personnel for combat, there is also a scarcity of ammunition to fight a war. The LTTE is saddled with the responsibility to make even this deficiency that exists in the Tamil community to save it from annihilation.

The founding of the Black Tiger strategy is the answer to this need. It is blended to the liberation struggle in a unique way.  It is wrong to demean or degrade ‘Self-sacrifice’ in the process of targeting the army or its installations as an act of suicide.  Suicide, on the contrary is when one cannot face the realities in life, or of anger, or as a result of disappointment in life, an outcome manifested by a depressed state of mind.    

The sacrifice made by a Black Tiger is a battlefront sacrifice, an ultimate self-sacrifice for preventing further loss of the Tamil Race, a priceless gift for the preservation of the Tamil Race and the adoration of the Black Tiger strategy.

The Black Tiger strategy solely targets the Singhalese army that has in its agenda the grabbing the Tamil homeland and annihilating the Tamils, and in military law this is justifiable.  The Sri Lankan Kifir and MIG jets keep constantly flying over Tamil settlements causing panic to the civilians and dropping their 500 to 1000 kg.  lethal bombs killing and maiming the Tamils. The LTTE is in a helpless situation to prevent this catastrophe. It is under such circumstance that the self-sacrifice of its cadre becomes an important gift to make the strategy work.

Why do the Tamils rejoice when the Black Tigers destroy the Air Force jets or when they wipe out the artillery base, or sink the battleships of the Navy while sacrificing their lives in the process? It because such offensive military weapons in the hands of the Sri Lankan Government pose an eternal threat to the Tamils. The Black Tigers destroy them in their effort to protect the Tamils, and that is the element of rejoices in the Tamils.

When their aircraft are destroyed, or when their ships are sunk by the Black Tigers, the Sri Lankan government cries out to the world that these are acts of terrorism. But when the inhumane bombardment violating the ethics of war by their fighter jets, or multi barrel guns, or shells that are directed on innocent Tamil civilian dwellings, or schools, or temples, they justify the atrocity that such acts are defensive military actions and carried out meticulously on LTTE military targets.

The emergence of Black Tigers

The answer to the question as to how the Black Tigers emerged is not mysterious.

With a decisive mission to liberate the Tamils from the clutches of the ruthless offending Sri Lankan Army, the Tamil youth found solace by enrolling in the LTTE to defend their fellow civilians from Army atrocity.    After many years of experience fighting the Sri Lankan Army on foot, they wrote to the leadership their desire to join the Black Tiger outfit. After a waiting period they were admitted to the ranks of the Black Tigers. Their urgent desire to liberate the Tamils, their never-ending devotion for a successful mission, and to be a part of it as heroes or heroines attracted them to the outfit. Their thirst for freedom from oppression, desire to liberate their land and the undaunted faith and loyalty on their leader Pirapaharan, energized their heroic performances in the Black Tiger outfit. The human conscious will be shaken when one realizes the sacred sacrifice rendered by the Black Tigers in their thirst whose only goal is to liberate the Tamils.

That is the reason why when the Black Tigers focused on their goal display their valiant deeds the Tamil public become ecstatic, and cease to fear neither the numerically greater Singhalese army nor its enormous firepower, but get a heroic feeling to participate in the freedom struggle.

The Black Tiger doctrine is thus deeply embedded in the essence of the Tamil homeland.

S. Ravi is the Chief Editor of ‘Viduthaalip Pulikal,’ the official organ of the Liberation Tigers.