Sri Lankan assassins picked perfect spot, police and neighbours say17 August 2005
@ Khaleej Times Online / AFP
COLOMBO - The elderly couple beset with health problems had no idea that two assassins lived upstairs in a room that had the only possible clear shot into the high-walled compound of slain foreign minister Lakshman Kadirgamar.
Four days after the shooting police with high-tech equipment measured angles and distances with lasers to figure out how assassins shot Kadirgamar late on Friday evening.
They know the shooters picked their moment, shooting him at around 11:00 pm as he exited his swimming pool onto a small terrace.
They also picked their spot, firing three times from 82 feet (25 meters) through a two-inch (50 millimeter) opening.
The assassins used a rifle with a telescopic sight and silencer mounted on a tripod on top of a table, police at the scene said.
They then removed two of six slats one foot (300 mm) across and half-an-inch (12.7mm) wide that covered a cross beam above one of a row of four similiar windows.
Sixteen feet (5.0 meter) stone walls topped by steel-mesh fence and heavy steel doors enclosed the house located at a street junction in a wealthy neighbourhood.
“They had a clear shot. It was the perfect spot and the only place in the whole neighbourhood where they could have hid and seen him inside the compound,” said Fadhir Bakeermarkar, 20, whose family lives across the street from Kadirgamar’s house.
Kadirgamar, an ethnic Tamil had been a target of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam after he began a campaign in 1994 to have them listed by several countries as a terrorist organisation.
He was cremated Monday in a Buddhist ceremony.
His death has sparked concern that a fragile ceasefire between the Sri Lankan government of the majority Buddhist nation and separatist Tamil rebels in place since February 2002 could unravel.
Kadirgamar’s house on Buller Crescent at the intersection of Buller Lane was guarded by as many as 100 special security forces.
He choose the place because his official residence nearby didn’t have a swimming pool and Kadirgamar, 73 and an active athlete in his younger days, wanted a place to swim at the end of the day, his private secretary Swinitha Perera said.
An alleyway runs along the left side from the approach on Buller Lane to separate Kadirgamar’s house from the elderly couple’s house where the two assassins and at least two servants planned the killing, police said.
The couple are in their 60s with the wife partially paralyzed and the husband in ill health, police said.
They told police they had no idea who came and went from the servant quarters and are not suspects in the investigation, police said.
A tree to the left marred part of the view from the room in the couple’s house into the back of Kadirgamar’s compound.
But from the one transom above the window they had a clear shot at a small patch of terrace at the end of a rectangular-shaped swimming pool.
Still, the shot would be tough at night as the shooter had to stand on the table, aim the rifle muzzle out of the narrow opening of the window transom and face halogen security lights on the compound wall, police said.
Kadirgamar had reportedly been warned of a threat, police said, but did not want to antagonize his neighbours.
Police at the scene Tuesday said the sniper had to aim down at enough of an angle to hit the terrace without clipping the steel-mesh fence or have the shot obscured by the tree to the left.
“They would have planned this for months,” Bakeermarkar said. ”The sniper would have had to find the perfect time and have the minister standing at the exact right spot.”
Police said a guard at a sentry post on the wall above the swimming pool did not hear the shots and none of the neighbours or security forces saw the assassins and the servants flee.
Investigators at the scene Tuesday, who declined to be identified, said they have gathered clues, as well as a grenade launcher since the Friday shooting, and questioned suspects and are confident of finding the killers.
Bakeermarkar isn’t so sure.
“My little brother is still frightened,” he said. “We can’t believe it happened and no one had a clue