Tigers take terror ops to space
SATELLITE TV: While the attention of most remains drawn to the LTTEâ€™s
development of an air capability, a piecing together of its recent
activities indicate that its new focus is on developing a much more
ambitious capability in space, using it to best effect in its
communications offensive against Sri Lanka, and to further its aim of
being a dominant force in the South Asia region.
President George W. Bush is determined to pursue with the
anti-missile defence operations in Europe, using Poland and the Czech
Republic , much against the objections of Russia.
The recent meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice failed to give any concessions to
Russia on this matter.
The position of the Bush Administration is that the missile defence
capability in Europe is necessary to prevent the dangers of any rogue
state or terrorist organization getting their hands on long distance
missiles, with the added capability of delivering nuclear warheads.
While this must be a worry for the super power that initiated the War
on Terror which brought it to the quagmire of Iraq, developments in the
US itself indicate that apart from missile threats in Europe,
international terrorism is making a great leap in the use of satellite
communications for terrorist purposes.
Already the Sri Lanka Embassy in Washington has lodged complaints
with the US Justice Department, State Department and the Federal Bureau
of Investigation (FBI) against the Washington based Intelsat Ltd., for
enabling the National Television of Tamil Eelam (NTT) channel and
Pulikalin Kural radio from the Intelsat 12 satellite transponder,
thereby continuing to facilitate and broadcast terrorist propaganda.
It will be recalled that following representations made by the Sri
Lanka Embassy, Intelsat Ltd., had agreed to remove both channels from
its transponder. In a press statement dated April 10, Intelsat,
referring to its meeting with Sri Lankan Ambassador Bernard Goonetilleke
over the LTTEâ€™s use of its satellite, said: â€śIntelsat does not tolerate
terrorists or others operating illegally on its satellites.
Since we first learned of the LTTEâ€™s signal piracy, we have been
actively pursuing a number of technical alternatives to halt the
We are clear in our resolve to ending this terrorist organizationâ€™s
unauthorized use of our satellite.â€ť It was on this basis that Intelsat
agreed to stop the broadcast of the LTTE propaganda channels using its
The LTTEs continued use of the Intelsat Satellite has compelled this
matter being brought to the notice of the US authorities, on the basis
that the satellite provider is violating US law by continuing to
broadcast the propaganda television and radio services of the LTTE which
is listed the US as a foreign terrorist organization, through the
satellite they own despite public assurances given weeks ago to the
Closer home, it is now reported that the LTTE has launched its second
TV pay channel Tharishanam this week by broadcasting via satellite the
Makkal Television Tamil channel of Chennai, India.
Makkal, a Tamil satellite TV channel which was launched in September
last year, is owned by Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) founded by S.
Ramadoss, which is one the alliance partners of United Progressive
Front, the Indiaâ€™s ruling alliance.
The PMK is a pro-LTTE party in India, and its leader Dr. Ramadoss, a
strong pro LTTE supporter, who runs programmes to support LTTE on Makkal
Sources said then PMK had come forward to assist the Tigers with
their propaganda drive, in view of current problems the LTTE is facing
over propaganda broadcasts in foreign countries.
Significantly, while the US authorities are being told the broadcast
of LTTE material by Intelsat is a violation of US law as it is an
international terrorist organization banned by the US, the ramifications
of the use of the Chennai-based Makkal satellite channel for LTTE
propaganda also raises important questions about the freedom for LTTE
propaganda there, while it remains an organization banned by the Indian
The situation is more complicated with the current curbs that India
is imposing on LTTE operations in Tamil Nadu and South India following
its killing of five Indian fishermen and the holding of one Indian
vessel and 12 fishermen by the Sea Tigers.
It is also reported that the LTTE is planning to beam a second TV
channel to Europe this week named Tharishanam (Revelation), which will
be a pay channel to run as a client of Globecast of France.
The French authorities had earlier stopped another TV channel of the
LTTE for its transgression of French regulations. The new channel is to
be up-linked on to the Israeli Satlink platform in the Hotbird 8
Satellite, Asiantribune reports.
Asiantribune says: This act of defiance by the Tamil Tigers in France
comes in the wake of the closure of their Tamil Television Networks (TTN)
pay channel on May 2, 2007. The closed down TTN pay channel had 22,000
subscribers drawing Euro 330,000 per month.
Knowing in advance that TTN would be closed down by the French
authorities; the LTTE launched a supplementary free channel Mathuram on
April 14, 07. The Mathuram channel now carries announcements that the
LTTE will launch another TV channel called Tharishanam, in due course.
With all its declared opposition to terrorism, it will be interesting
to see how Israel reacts to this move to use itâ€™s Satlink satellite
platform for the purpose of disseminating propaganda and also being used
as a communication facility by the LTTE, which is listed by many
countries including the US and the European Union as an international
It is reported that Mathuram is part of the Tamil Box Office (TBO)
channel of Singapore, owned by GV Films of India and broadcast by
Satlink of Israel. Asiantribune reports that faced with objections from
the owners of TBO channel and stiff measures of the French Government,
TTN has decided to move and locate themselves in Lausanne, Switzerland.
However, it is still not clear whether the LTTE is planning to
broadcast the new channel from Switzerland via Globelink (of France)
up-linking to the Hotbird 8 Satellite through Satlink (of Israel), or
whether they will prepare the programme in Switzerland and then send it
to Israel for broadcasting, the Asiantribune states.
This gives a clear indication of the international ramifications of
the LTTEâ€™s communications operations, and its use of satellite
technology in countries that are opposed to terrorism and those that
have banned it as a terrorist organization either unilaterally or
regionally, for its own purposes.
Giving a warning that the LTTE may be considering the use of
commercial satellite networks for its intelligence operations, Ajey Lele,
a research fellow at IDSA observes in the Indian Express (May 14, 07)
that: To date the LTTE has been found using these satellite services
mainly for the purpose of propaganda through their television programmes,
both for the local population and non-resident Tamils.
They have been able to collect funds and procure arms by tapping a
large Tamil population overseas. The uplinking of transmission was
probably done from a secret location, believed close to Vavuniya, in
northern Sri Lanka.
Ajey Lele who comments on the difficulties of identification of users
when using satellite services under proxy identities, states:
Unfortunately, the irony is that today terrorist organizations like the
LTTE, blacklisted by the US and EU, are exploring the possibilities of
using space assets procured commercially in order to spread terror.
This cannot but be an alarming development for not just Sri Lanka but
India, given its close proximity to this theatre of conflict. Those
countries and leaders prosecuting any War on Terror would be fostering
the growth of terrorism if they ignore these warnings of the use of
space for terror.
It is not by missiles and warheads alone that terrorism can strike.