As the Sri Lankan army drives the Tamil Tigers from ever more of the northern territory they once held,a fuller picture is emerging of the rebels. Soldiers have stumbled upon weaponry that speaks of a well-resourced militant group that had systematically armed itself to bomb a government into submission. Hiran Halangode,a retired brigadier,describes them as a well-financed,innovative group: not the run-of-the-mill sort of organisation with an ammo dump that you could catch any time you wished.
Since the army started converging on the district of Mullaitivu in January,it has found training facilities for suicide-bombers and other fighters and factories producing chemical bombs. At Dharmapuram,soldiers located underwater fuel-storage tanks with 67,500 litres of diesel. Inside thick jungle,hidden from aerial view,they hit upon boatyards and completed submarines. The defence ministrys website later called the Tigers the first terrorist organisation to develop underwater weapons. Among the other boats were fast-attack craft and some built for naval suicide-missions.
According to the army,whose reports cannot be verified,it has also found improvised mortar launchers,ammunition dumps,sophisticated transmission equipment,armour-plated vehicles and heavy machinery used to dig deep moats around Tiger bases. Scattered around Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi districts,the army found two aircraft hangars,seven airstrips,and a training facility for the rebels rudimentary air wing. But the three light-wing aircraft the Tigers used in eight attacks on military facilities are missing. An air-force spokesman says they probably went back into the boxes they had come in.
Perhaps most interest has been drawn by several multi-storeyed,underground shelters that the army suspects were used by Velupillai Prabhakaran,the Tigers’ heavily protected (and diabetic) leader. At ground level,the bunkers look like ordinary houses. Below,they have bulletproof doors and impermeable concrete walls one-metre (three-foot) thick. They are furnished,often tiled and were air-conditioned with electricity from soundproof generators. A 50-foot-deep shelter at Mullaitivu was fitted with a lift to the surface. On a bedside table was a container with empty vials of insulin.
© The Economist Newspaper Limited 2009