Sea Tigers

Sea Tigers

The Sea Tigers is the naval force of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, founded in 1984. [ [ According to article in Sea Tigers were formed in 1992] ] The Sea Tigers have a number of small but effective suicide bomber vessels [ [ mentioning suicide Sea Tiger boats sinking two SLN patrol boats and killing 17 SLN sailors] ] . During its existence it has gained a reputation as a capable adversary for the small Sri Lankan Navy [ [ Janes article stating; Battles highlight Sea Tigers' capabilities] ] . The Sea Tigers are led by Colonel Soosai, with their main base at Mullaitivu, on the north-eastern coast of Sri Lanka [ [ Article in SAAG.ORG stating that the Sea Tigers main base are in Mullaitivu] ] . Over the years the Sea Tigers have sunk at least 29 Sri Lankan naval gunboats and one freighter [ [ Article on LTTE from Energypublisher] ] .

ea Tigers background

As the Tamil insurgency gained strength, the LTTE required that much of its supplies to be smuggled in by sea. It was soon realized that a naval component was needed to complement the land-based guerrilla forces. The leader of the LTTE, Velupillai Prabhakaran, understood the necessity of a naval force.

The Sea Tigers were officially founded in 1984. In the first years its primary task was smuggling personnel and equipment between the LTTE's bases in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka, in particular Jaffna. As the Sea Tiger cadres gained experience, it took on offensive operations against the Sri Lankan Navy.

Operational capacities


Light fibreglass boats are used for suicide bomber attacks. These boats can be up to 15 meters long, and are usually equipped with four 250 Hp outboard engines and a mixture of weaponry: light and heavy machine guns, 15-18 mm guns and grenade launchers. The Sea Tiger attack vessels are only at sea during operations and training; when idle they are loaded on large trailers and hidden in the dense jungle southwest of Mullaitivu or even transported to the west coast if needed.

Boat classes


The Sea Tigers also man a number of larger merchant vessels (sailing under various flags) used for smuggling equipment from neighboring countries Fact|date=March 2008. As there are no large ports under LTTE control, the supplies are loaded on to smaller vessels that can land directly on the beaches Fact|date=March 2008 [ [ LTTE merchant ship sunk by Sri Lanka ] ] .


Frogmen also serve with the Sea Tigers and have been used in sinking at least one freighter at the Sri Lankan Navy base at Kankesanturai - KKS, at the northern point of the Jaffna peninsula [ [ ISN Security Watch - LTTE: Technologically innovative rebels ] ] .

On 17 June 2006 on the coast near Colombo, two frogmen belonging to the Sea Tigers were captured by Sri Lanka's army while trying to bomb ships in Colombo Port. News images showed that the frogmen were using rebreathers, probably a type with one oxygen cylinder across the belly. On capture, both tried to commit suicide using cyanide. [ [ News - Deadly plan to blast Colombo port ] ]


The total personnel strength is between 2,000-3,000 women and men [ [ Janes article with estimate of ST strength in 2006] ] . Women operate the boats on an equal footing as their male compatriots. However the number of personnel may vary depending on operational needs. Local arms caches are hidden in the jungle close to villages.

Major Sea Tiger operations

During several of the LTTE offensive campaigns the Sea Tigers have landed troops to engage and distract Sri Lankan Army units; the latest was when the LTTE attacked the TamilEela Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal faction in the east in 2004. The most significant use of combined operations was at the battle for Elephant Pass in the Spring of 2000, when some 2,500 cadres were landed behind enemy lines. Previously the largest such operation was the capture of Mullaitivu in 1996, the Sri Lanka Army losing over 1,200 soldiers with all their equipment. The LTTE admitted that during that operation the LTTE lost 330 personnel [ [ Casualty number from - LTTE friendly website, numbers should be taken with caution] ] .

Sea Tigers fast patrol boats and smaller suicide boats have engaged and sunk around 29 Sri Lanka Navy fast patrol boats. They have also attacked the main SLN naval base in a suicide bomber vessel mission at Trincomalee and damaged one of the two SLN catamarans used as troop transports, a significant setback for the SLN.Fact|date=February 2007

On October 20 2006, the Sri Lankan Navy reported that it had sunk 9 Sea Tigers boats, and damaged several others in a major skirmish which reportedly left 171 rebels dead. [ [ BBC NEWS | World | South Asia | S Lankan navy 'sinks rebel boats' ] ]

Analysts' views of Sea Tigers

Jane's International Defence Review, in a report on Sri Lanka, published a few years ago, pointed out that the Sea Tigers "have taken on the Sri Lankan navy with unprecedented success." A recent publication of the Woodrow Wilson School of Politics and International Affairs for the Centre for Strategic and International Studies reckons that they have destroyed 30 per cent of Sri Lanka's navy fiberglass small craft fleetcite web |url= |title= The way ahead in Sri Lanka |accessdate=2008-04-20 |last=|first= |coauthors= |date= |work=Observer research foundation |publisher=Tamilnation|format=PDF]

The fact that the Sea Tigers do not rely on communications with their command on shore during ongoing operations is one factor in their success. The Sri Lankan Navy on the other hand is required to act in accordance with commanders onshore. Sea Tiger intelligence has also played a key role in their operations, allowing for detailed and bold operations to be carried out in almost silent mode (highest EMCON)

The basis of Sea Tiger offensive operations can be described as sea control and keeping the SLN on their toes with their extensive sea denial tactics in the northern waters of Sri Lanka. Some analysts say the Sea Tigers have adopted the military theory of 'Versatile Maritime Force'. Sea Tiger operations could also be seen as a clear example of asymmetric warfare.

trategic implications


India regards the Sea Tigers as a "nuisance" in South Asian waters [ [ Indian Navy Chief calls Sea Tigers a nuisance ] ] and the Indian Armed Forces and Tamil Nadu's state government had increased naval surveillance in the region. [ [ Wary of Sea Tigers, India tightens security ] ] Though there haven't been any reported clashes between the Sea Tigers and Indian civil or military ships, Indian experts have suggested the government to "neutralize" it as the ongoing battle between the Tigers and Sri Lankan Navy has affected Indian fishing areas and shipping lanes. [ [ The Hindu : Tamil Nadu News : `India must neutralise Sea Tigers' ] ]

ri Lanka

Currently the LTTE controls the northern part of Sri Lanka, except the Jaffna peninsula; the Sri Lankan forces there are mainly supplied through naval convoys from Trincomalee in the east. The Sea Tigers bases are well located for attacks on these shipments, and forces the SLN to keep a significant force of fast attack patrol-boats on alert. Sea Tigers have also captured and seized the cargo of at least two Sri Lankan freighters. In many ways the Sea Tigers have adapted and challenged a larger and more modern Navy, due to their tactics being based on the understanding of SLN operations cycles, doctrine and reaction time. [ [ Interview with commander Sanjeewa Dias in] ]

Human Rights Abuses

ea piracy

The Sea Tigers are accused of hijacking ships and boats of all sizes. "Dr Vijay Sakhuja", "South Asia Analysis group", [ SEA PIRACY IN SOUTH ASIA] ]

The Sea Tigers has been accused of hijacking several vessels in waters outside Sri Lanka including the "Irish Mona" (in August 1995), "Princess Wave" (in August 1996), "Athena" (in May 1997), "Misen" (in July 1997), "Morong Bong" (in July 1997), "MV Cordiality" (in Sept 1997) and Princess Kash (in August 1998). When the LTTE captured the "MV Cordiality" near the port of Trincomalee, they killed all five Chinese crew members on board. The "MV Sik Yang", a 2,818-ton Malaysian-flag cargo ship which sailed from Tuticorin, India on May 25, 1999 was reported missing in waters near Sri Lanka. The ship with a cargo of bagged salt was due at the Malaysian port of Malacca on May 31. The fate of the ship's crew of 63 is unknown. It is suspected that the vessel was hijacked by the LTTE, the crew thrown overboard, and is now been used as a phantom vessel. A report published on June 30, 1999 confirmed that the vessel had been hijacked by the LTTE.

In a notable incident since the signing of the Ceasefire Agreement in 2001, the crew of a Jordanian ship, "MV Farah III" that ran aground near rebel-controlled territory off the island's coast, accused the Tamil Tigers of forcing them to abandon the vessel which was carrying 14,000 tonnes of Indian rice and risking their lives.cite news | url = | title =Jordanian crew slam Tigers for piracy| publisher = The Hindu|date = 26 December, 2006] The crew said that LTTE fired four times to force them out of the vessel after failing to explode it in choppy seas three days after. The skipper of the vessel said;

"First they tried to set up a bomb and explode the anchor cable and when it failed they ordered us to weigh anchor"
He also said that the Tigers dismantled and removed all radio communication equipment and radar from the vessel. On May 1, 2007 Sayed Sulaiman, the chairman of the ship's owners, Salam International Trading Company gave an interview to the BBC Tamil service, saying,
"We hear from the parties who are concerned with the ship, the insurance company etc., that ... everything that could be taken – like the rice, lights, generators – has been taken from the ship. The ship is now bare." [cite news | title=Cargo boat 'looted off Sri Lanka' | date=2007-05-01 | url = | work =BBC NEWS | accessdate = 2007-05-02 ]


External links

* [ Article in "Janes" about the Sea Tiger sinking of a SLN catamaran in Trincomalee]
* [ Article in "Janes" about the Sea Tigers'tactics and technology]
* [ Article in "The Hindu" - Sea Tigers as a possible threat to India's security]
* [ Article in the GOSL website regarding the "Chinese trawler incident"]
* [ BBC report about the "Chinese trawler incident"]
* [ Pictorial of Sea Tigers parade to pay tribute to their fallen fellow cadres on the Martyr's day memorial held in Kallapadu, Mullaithivu coast Nov 2005, a blog]
* [ Overview of the Sea Tiger attack on "Pearl Cruise" on 11. May 2006, from "Transcurrents",]

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