Thursday, June 16, 2011



My attention has been drawn to a disturbing documentary titled “Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields” produced by Mr.Jon Snow of the Channel4 TV channel of the UK.

2.The documentary highlights the results of a forensic investigation into the bloody culmination phase of the counter-insurgency operations of the Sri Lankan Security Forces against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in April-May,2009. It alleges that the culmination phase, which physically wiped out the leadership of the LTTE for which no right-thinking person opposed to terrorism need shed tears, was also marked by executions, shelling of civilians and other atrocities carried out by the Security Forces. The documentary is available at .

3. In the culmination phase, the Sri Lankan Security Forces did face a cruel dilemma because the ruthless leadership of the LTTE headed by Prabakaran was making a last-ditch effort to save itself from capture or killing by taking shelter in the midst of civilian refugees. It was not an opportunistic tactic in the face of the mounting pressure from the Security Forces. It was a consciously-planned tactic of Prabakaran to force the international community to intervene by creating a situation in which hundreds of civilians were used as cannon fodder in a futile attempt to save the LTTE leadership from extinction.

4.After the operation ended with the elimination of the LTTE leadership and the collapse of the LTTE as a terrorist organisation, there was a spate of allegations from well-reputed international human rights organisations, humanitarian workers, representatives of Western Governments and UN officials ---many of whom often levelled the allegations independently of each other and not in a concerted campaign--- that the Sri Lankan Security Forces could not escape their share of the blame for the large-scale violations of the human rights of the Sri Lankan Tamil civilians living in the operational area under the control of the LTTE.

5.Two kinds of violations were alleged. Firstly, that the leaders of the LTTE, including Prabakaran, wanted to surrender but were not given an opportunity to do so, but instead were physically eliminated. Secondly, that the Security Forces consciously used disproportionate force with light, medium and heavy weapons knowing fully well that such use could kill many civilians. Protecting the civilians caught was not on the agenda of either the LTTE or the Security Forces.

6. These allegations have been accompanied by demands for an independent international enquiry under the auspices of the UN to determine the truth and for action against the officers of the Security Forces and others found responsible for the violations --- in a manner satisfactory to the international community. It has been alleged that some of the atrocities amounted to crimes against humanity and war crimes.

7. The Sri Lankan Government headed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa has strongly and consistently denied these allegations. While it admits the possibility that there might have been some violations to determine which it has been holding its own enquiry, it has indignantly refuted the allegations that the violations were of such a serious nature as to call for international intervention and action.

8. Unfortunately, human rights violations are rarely avoided in counter-insurgency situations however much the Security Forces try to do so. Terrorist and insurgent organisations train themselves well in creating situations where human rights violations do occur in order to seek the intervention of the international community.

9. What distinguishes a civilised and responsible Government sensitive to the rights of its civilians from a Government which is totally insensitive to the human rights dimensions of counter-insurgency operations is that the former takes cognisance of the allegations instead of summarily rejecting them, enquires into them and takes the follow-up action warranted by the results of the enquiry.

10. That is what the Sri Lankan Government has promised to do. Should it be trusted to do justice to the Sri Lankan Tamils or should it be distrusted and pressured to let the enquiry and follow-up action be handled by an international mechanism set up under the auspices of the UN?

11. While there were obviously serious violations, evidence available till now do not bear out the stand of those who accuse the Rajapaksa Government of violations amounting to crimes against humanity or war crimes.

12. In our anxiety and sympathy for the legitimate rights of the Sri Lankan Tamils, we should not exaggerate or over-state our arguments in support of or against an international enquiry. The Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora which has been active in demanding an international enquiry has stepped up its pressure on Governments and non-Governmental personalities, including reputed journalists of India and other countries, to take cognisance of the forensic evidence collected by the documentary and support the demand for an international enquiry.

13. The Government of India should pay serious attention to the alleged evidence produced by the documentary and have it examined by our legal and humanitarian experts in order to see whether the documentary needs to be taken up officially and at the bilateral level with the Government of Sri Lanka and, if so, in what manner and for what objective.

14. The objective should be to ensure that justice is done to the relatives of the victims and that the honour of the victims is respected even if it be posthumously. It should not be to use the documentary as a stick to beat the SL Government with.

15. The Rajapaksa Government will facilitate a more meaningful Indian role in calming the feelings of indignation and concern of the Sri Lankan Tamils if it handles the documentary with the seriousness it deserves. Inaction is not an option for the Government of India. But action should be within acceptable limits of our bilateral relations with Sri Lanka and should not be overdone.(20-6-11)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )



B. Raman

Six weeks after the death of Osama bin Laden on May 2,2011, Al Qaeda’s General Command has announced the appointment of Ayman al-Zawahiri, of Egypt, who was OBL’s No.2, as the new head of Al Qaeda. A statement announcing his appointment was posted on a website associated with Al Qaeda. It was attributed to the General Command. It said: "Sheikh Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri, may God guide him, assumed responsibility as the group's Amir [leader]". It vowed that under Zawahiri, Al Qaeda would pursue jihad against the US and Israel "until all invading armies leave the land of Islam".

2. Earlier, on May 18,2011, quoting Pakistani security sources, Al Jazeera had reported that Al Qaeda had appointed Saif al-Adel, formerly of the Egyptian Army, as its interim leader and Mohammed Mustafa al-Yemeni as its operations chief .Al Jazeera had said: "According to the sources, the decision (on the appointments) was made at a meeting on May 10 on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border."

3.According to Al Jazeera, Adnan al-Khairi al-Masri was named as Al Qaeda's general command head, Mohammed Nasser al-Wahshi as its Africa chief, Mohammed Adam Khan, an Afghan, as in charge in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Fahd al-Iraqi as in charge of the Afghan-Pakistani border region.

4. Since the earlier report had emanated from Pakistani sources there was some doubt about its reliability. The latest statement regarding the appointment of Zawahiri as the head was posted in one of the web sites used by Al Qaeda for such announcements and hence appears to be more authentic.

5. Saif al-Adel was said to have been a critic of OBL’s arbitrary ways of taking important operational decisions and had reportedly questioned the wisdom of the 9/11 terrorist strikes in the US Homeland since those strikes, according to him, enabled the US to mobilise the international community against Al Qaeda.

6. The latest statement of Al Qaeda regarding the appointment of Zawahiri is silent on the earlier appointments as announced by Al Jazeera on the basis of information provided by Pakistani sources.

7.Zawahiri has been advocating since February 12,2007, a global jihadi Intifada, which would cover all lands in the world, which rightfully belong to Islam.

8.However, he specifies certain areas, which he thinks should receive special attention first. Of these, he gives the topmost priority to Afghanistan and Iraq. He says the future of Islam and of the global Intifada itself will be decided in those countries. If they can defeat the Americans there, the jihadis' victory in the rest of the lands will be assured. After mentioning these two countries, he mentions certain other areas specifically. He believes that the victory of the jihadis in these areas would also be crucial for the ultimate victory of Islam. These areas are Palestine, including Gaza, the Lebanon, Somalia, Algeria and Chechnya in Russia. He describes Somalia as the Southern garrison of Islam and Algeria as its Western garrison.

9. His past statements had included Jammu and Kashmir as among historic Muslim lands under occupation by non-Muslims and hence to be “liberated”. He had drawn the attention of the Pakistani people to the danger of Gen.Pervez Musharraf colluding with the Hindus if he was not removed from power. However, he had not spoken of the Muslims living in other parts of India outside J&K.

10.By Jihadi Intifada, he means a kind of struggle in which the role of motivated individual Muslims will become more important than that of organisations so that the weakening or collapse of an organisation does not result in a collapse of the Intifada. He wants the Intifada to acquire a momentum of its own as a result of the sacrifices of individual Muslims.

11.He said in his message of January 22, 2007: "Every Muslim today is directly responsible for defending Islam, Islam’s homeland and the Islamic Ummah and he is responsible for the efforts to liberate the Muslim captives foremost of whom is Sheikh Omar Abdl al-Rahman from the prisons of the crusaders and their helpers and we reaffirm to the families of the Guantanamo captives who are demonstrating these days in Cuba, that we –with God’s permission-- have not and will not forget our captives and that their liberation is a debt on our necks and that the Americans must expect to pay the price for everything they have done to them."

12. In his past statements, he downplayed the importance of a central command and control in keeping the Intifada going. The motivation of individual Muslims was more important than any centralised command and control.

13.He also projects the Intifada as a mix of military and non-military struggles. He says in his message of December 20, 2006: "We must bear arms. And if we are unable to bear them, then we must support those who carry them. This support comes in many forms and guises, so we must exploit all Da’wah, student and union activities to back the Jihadi resistance....... The Muslim Ummah must exploit all methods of popular protest, like demonstrations, sit-ins, strikes, refusing to pay taxes, preventing cooperation with the security forces, refusing to provide the Crusaders with fuel, hitting traders who supply the Crusader forces, boycotting Crusader and Jewish products, and other ways of popular protest."

14. The importance of the role of individual Muslims has been re-emphasised in a video circulated by the propaganda wing of Al Qaeda on June 8,2011.This video is a collation of messages issued by Zawahiri, Adam Gadahn, the American convert to Islam, who heads the propaganda wing, Atiya Abdel Rahman (Libyan operations chief of Al Qaeda, who was allegedly a key aide to bin Laden when he was hiding in Abbottabad)and Abu Laith Al-Libi.

15. In his message, Adam Gadahn , who spoke in English, said: “Muslims living in the US are perfectly placed to play an important and decisive part in the jihad against the Zionists and Crusaders.” He told them how easy it was to buy automatic assault weapons at gun shows without any identification.

16. Hinting at a policy of targeted individual assassinations of important Governmental and non-Governmental leaders, he said: “It’s important that we weaken our cowardly enemies’ will to fight by targeting influential public figures in Crusader and Zionist government, industry and media.”

17.Zawahiri’s past statements highlighted his disenchantment with the PLO, Al Fatah and the Hamas. He asked the Palestinians to take over the responsibility for the Intifada in their own hands. He said in his message of February 12, 2007: "The Muslims in the area should work for the establishment of an Islamic state in Palestine, instead of supporting an individual faction or political party. I'm not asking them to join HAMAS, Islamic Jihad or al-Qaida, but rather, I'm asking them to return to Islam, in order to fight for the establishment of an Islamic state over all of Palestine, and not for the establishment of a secularist state which will please America on crumbs of Palestine."

18.He wanted the Palestinians as well as the Muslims of the Lebanon to categorically reject all UN Resolutions and international agreements relating to these lands of Islam. He told the Lebanese people: "I ask my brothers in Islam and Jihad in Lebanon not to give in to Resolution 1701, nor accept the pushing back of the Lebanese border 30 kilometers, nor accept the presence of the international Crusader forces in the south as a barrier between them and Occupied Palestine, even if that resolution is agreed to by all official political forces licensed by the Lebanese government, on the basis of international balances and foreign connections."

19.In a message of December 20, 2006, Zawahiri said: "Brothers in Islam and Jihad in Somalia: know that you are on the southern garrison of Islam, so don’t allow Islam to be attacked from your flank, and know that we are with you, and that the entire Muslim Ummah is with you. So don’t lose heart, or fall into despair, for you must dominate if you are true in faith. And know that you are fending off the same Crusade which is fighting your brothers in Islam in Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon. So be resolute, be patient and be optimistic, for by Allah beside whom there is no other god, even if your enemies possess thousands of tons of iron and explosives, in their chests lie the hearts of mice. So be severe against them like Muhammad was. "

20.He also said: "I also send my greetings and those of my brothers to our steadfast brothers in Algeria in the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, the guards of Islam’s western garrison. I ask Allah to accept their sacrifices, perseverance and resoluteness, to send down on them His victory which He promised His believing worshippers, and to conquer with them His enemies, the Crusaders and secularist sons of France. And I give them the good news that the winds of victory are blowing, that the Ummah has risen up, and that the era of humiliation has come to a close. So stand firm."

21.His increased interest in Algeria could be attributed to his desire partly to bring about the rule of the Sharia in Algeria and partly to use Algeria as a rear base for spreading the Intifada to France, Spain and Portugal. Al Qaeda and its International Islamic Front have been using the Afghanistan-Pakistan region as a rear base for their Jihadi Intifada against the US and the UK. It has not been possible to use it as a rear base against France, Spain and Portugal. They are hoping that an active Jihadi Intifada in Algeria will help in overcoming this deficiency.

22. In a reference to Chechnya, Zawahiri said in his message of December 20, 2006: "And I send my greetings and those of my brothers to the Chechen people, in Jihad against the Russian Crusade for 400 years. O sons of Imam Shamil, know that you are not alone in confronting the Crusade against Islam. You are at the throats of the Russians and their helpers, and we are at the throats of the Americans and Jews and their followers. So stand firm."

23. Under the ideological guidance of Zawahiri, Al Qaeda had also been calling upon the Muslims of the world to follow the command of Mulla Mohammad Omar, the Amir of the Taliban. It was part of his efforts to remove the impression that Wahabi Arabs were in the forefront of the Jihadi Intifada. He has been trying to emphasis that all Muslims are in the Intifada irrespective of their ethnic origin or nationality. He said in a message of 2007: "Nationalists split the Muslim Ummah into Arabs, Persians, Kurds, Turks, Afghans and others, then split the Arabs into Egyptians, Moroccans, Syrians, Iraqis, Lebanese, Saudis, Yemenis and others and thus provided the best possible service to the crusade invading the Islamic world and instead of the Ummah uniting to confront the colonialist campaign, as it previously united to face the crusade and Mongol invasions, the Ummah fell apart and fought itself." There was an attempt by Zawahiri to give Mulla Omar an iconic status as a non-Arab commander of the Jihadi Intifada. (16-6-11)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )