Sea Tigers: Sri Lanka’s deadly foes

May 12, 2006 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s truce prevents Tiger rebels from venturing out to sea, but “Sea Tiger” sailors are openly defying the ban and testing the resolve of the government and Nordic peace monitors, officials say. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) sparked a fresh row over their right to operate their deadly Sea Tiger naval force following Thursday’s sinking of a Sri Lankan navy gunboat.

“When the ceasefire was signed in 2002, the LTTE fighting formations, including the Sea Tigers, existed,” the LTTE told the Scandinavian monitors Friday, rejecting a ruling that Tigers could not access the Indian Ocean.

“We have repeatedly informed the SLMM (Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission) that we will retaliate if navy vessels intercept us.”

The guerrillas are increasingly taking their fight on to the seas thanks to a secretive and lethal rebel “navy”, a rarity among the world’s guerrilla forces.

The Black Sea Tigers, or the suicide wing of the seaborne arm of the LTTE, have also boasted that the Al-Qaeda militants who bombed the USS Cole in October 2000 off Yemen were inspired by them.

Long before the Cole attack, the LTTE was ramming explosives-packed boats, each manned by two Black Sea Tigers, into S