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 Post subject: We're ready for war, say Tamil Tigers
 Post Posted: Sun Jan 08, 2006 3:29 am 
We're ready for war, say Tamil Tigers

By Peter Apps
© Independent Online 2005 / Reuters

Kilinochchi - Malathy is around five feet tall, joined Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels a decade ago and says the deaths of her comrades have only strengthened her. She is ready to fight again.

Dressed in the distinctive tiger-striped battledress of a movement that fought for two decades for independence until a 2002 truce, the 28-year-old said she and her fellow cadres had hoped the Norwegian-brokered ceasefire would deliver a lasting peace, but it had not.

"We were under the impression that peace could be obtained and the freedom of the Tamil people gained through the peace process," she said, speaking through a translator in the northern town of Kilinochchi, the rebel headquarters.

The town straddles the main arterial road to the south and is bustling with shops, eateries and the apparatus of the Tigers' de facto state - law courts, police headquarters and their own bank.

"We find that has not happened," Malathy said of the hopes raised by the truce. "It is proven that method has not worked. If our leader changes his mind and gives us fresh orders, we are ready."

In November, shadowy rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran warned that unless the government - which has already ruled out a separate homeland for minority Tamils - gives them wide autonomy, the Tigers would "intensify their struggle" in 2006.

Since then, the rebels have been blamed for a string of lethal attacks on troops in government-held Tamil areas around rebel territory. The Tigers deny responsibility, which few in Colombo believe, and accuse the army of commiting atrocities against civilians that could spark a new war.

Already, 64 000 people have been killed in the fighting.

'They look like they want to kill everyone, drunk with a murderous fury'
Late on Wednesday, the rebels provided three militants for Reuters to interview in the garden of their media centre: Malathy and 32-year-old Jyanthi - both female combat veterans - as well as 24-year-old Nesan, who said he had never fought before.

The three said they had all undergone a full year's basic training before they were assigned to frontline units, and were trained to use a range of weaponry from different types of AK47 assault rifles to rocket propelled grenades and mortars.

"Even my first battle was easy," said Jyanthi, who first saw action in a successful 1996 attack to capture an army camp by the northeast coast. "We were well prepared, well trained and sure we would accomplish victory. After that, they became even easier. It was both satisfying and enjoyable."

In the past, the rebels have used female soldiers as both conventional infantry and as suicide bombers, and have warned they will use all their available resources if the war resumes.

The two women said female Tigers - who the rebels say make up 35 percent of an army analysts estimate at 18 000 to 20 000 strong - fought in separate units to men and were capable of anything their male colleagues could do.

Nesan, the only man in the group, fidgeted with his hands as his colleagues talked of their battle experience and refused to give details of precise tactics used or their current roles. But like them he said he was unafraid of what might come and was prepared to die if needed.

"I won't find it difficult to fight my first war," he said. "I have been prepared and fully trained to safeguard myself and fight, and I have the inner strength and the motive to give our Tamil people their freedom and rights."

While assassinations, child recruitment and attacks on civilian targets have led to several countries to list the Tigers as a banned terrorist organisation, the skill and determination they have showed in battle won them grudging respect from their opponents. Jyanthi said it was not mutual.

"We don't sympathise with them and we don't respect them," she said of the Sri Lankan military. "They come like murderers with vengeance. They look like they want to kill everyone, drunk with a murderous fury."

In action, the rebels said they would wear cyanide capsules around their necks to avoid capture by an enemy they say has tortured and mutilated captured comrades. None were married, and said they would not think of it until the war was won.

Smoking and drinking are forbidden for the cadres.

Jyanthi said she joined the rebels after witnessing unspecified atrocities against her family on the east coast. Malathy said going into battle she also thought of army crimes against Tamil civilians, which she said had continued under the ceasefire.

The two women said they had lost count of the number of comrades they had lost in the decade since they joined, but that it had only strengthened them.

"We feel sad but we don't grieve so much," Malathy said. "We feel our friends have given their lives for the defence of the Tamil people. That gives us the strength to fight more."

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