By Walter Jayawardhana reporting from Los Angeles

Liberation Tigers Air Wing leader, who was killed recently was specializing in teaching suicide bombing by micro light aircraft and was educated in aeronautical engineering and flying schools in Canada , intelligence reports show.

Vythilingam Sornalingam, who was identified as “Colonel” Shankar in Tiger literature was killed by a claymore mine , September 26 in deep Wanni and was a close confidante and relative of Liberation Tiger Leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.

The Tiger leader, Prabhakaran placed great importance in his relative’s work and had purchased many micro light aircraft to train the flying Tigers to be used as suicide bombers, reports say. Micro light aircraft filled with explosives were to be used to explode large buildings with people under the alleged plans.

Suicide bombing has become a trade mark of the Liberation Tigers since the early 1980’s. In the recruitment to their suicide brigades women and teenagers between 14 and 16 have been preferred to men since they are subjected less to restrictions in movements and body searches . Many under aged children are abducted from homes and schools to be conscripted to the army of Tigers. Part of them are directed to the suicide units. The male units are called Black Tigers and women’s units are called Birds of Freedom.

Tragedy befell the senior Tiger leader in an area under the control of the Liberation Tigers in deep Wanni at a place called Oddusudan and the rebels have accused a “deep penetration unit of the Sri Lanka army” of having committed the assassination. Any way the army has denied having anything to do with the killing.

The LTTE news website, Tamil Net gave great prominence to the news of his death and published photographs taken with their favorite peace negotiator, Eric Solheim and Leader Velupillai Prabhakaran in the announcement of death published with the condemnation of the killing issued by the LTTE.

Whoever who has committed the assassination has chosen the time of the 13th death anniversary celebrations of the LTTE, of a Tiger martyr, Thileepan who fasted unto death in 1987 demanding the withdrawal of the Indian Peace Keeping Forces from the provinces of North and East, to commit the death of “Colonel” Shankar.

Believed to be an extremely ruthless man, he did nothing to stop the assassination of the United national Party politician K.T.Pulendran, his close friend, by the Tigers many years ago.

Like many close comrades of Velupillai Prabhakaran, Shankar or Sorny to his close friends, or Sorni Anna to the junior cadres of the Tigers, hailed from Velvetiturai and belonged to the Karaiar caste of Northern Sri Lanka’s fishing community. Like his more powerful relative Prabhakaran he was detested by Jaffna’s elite Vellala caste. Described as a wealthy man he used to live in an estate called “Amirthalingam Farm” on the Vavuniya –Mannar Road. He never gave up his ancestral craft of fishing and smuggling and owned many sea-going trawlers, which are believed by the police, to have been used in gun running from India.

After Kittu and Akhila , “Colonel” Shankar was the third man to be decorated with the rebel’s military title. Liberation Tigers, anyway does not follow traditional military practice in appointing people as Colonels, Majors or to any other military positions. Apart from Thamil Chelvam he was the only Liberation Tiger representative allowed with leader Velupillai Prabhakaran at the meeting with Norway’s Eric Solheim led peace negotiators.

Liberation Tigers statement clearly indicate the group’s desire to avenge the death. Barati Ratnam, a Tiger scribe , writing in the LTTE daily electronic bulletin, the Circle Digest said, “ the perpetrator will pay the price.” He also warned the incident would trigger more fighting and put a full stop to the Norwegian peace efforts.

But when it comes to avenging, ‘Colonel” Shankar’s death is not the only one bothering them. The rebel group has lost more than six of its senior cadres in the recent past. The Tiger political wing leader Thamil Selvam barely saved his life in the chain of events attributed to the so called “deep penetration unit of the Sri Lanka Army.”

Before this incident, a claymore blast killed Mano who was in charge of the Tiger’s communication and video units in the Batticaloa District, at Naripulthottam in a Tiger control area. On June 15 the Tiger political Wing leader for the Batticaloa and Ampara District, Nizam was killed in another claymore blast at Vellaveli, once again in a Tiger control area. On May 16 a LTTE trooper was killed and others wounded in a claymore blast apparently intended for Thamil Chelvam at Kokkavil deep in the Tiger territory.

Some have attributed these assassinations to a growing internal power struggle in the Liberation Tigers. But so far, no hard evidence has surfaced as to who have committed those political assassinations.


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