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Questions over Kadirgamar’s death

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The Sri Lankan government has accused the Tamil Tigers of being behind the killing of Kadirgamar. The Tigers have denied all involvement, and said they believe the assassination was the work of a faction within the Sri Lankan establishment that wants the ceasefire to fail.

But as Hagrup Haukland, the head of the Norwegian monitoring mission has said, whoever was behind the killing, it has seriously destabilised the ceasefire.

The place where Kadirgamar died could not be more different from the poor fishing communities that were devastated by the tsunami. This is the Cinnamon Gardens neighbourhood of Colombo Seven, the city’s most prestigious residential area, all quiet leafy lanes with private villas set in their own gardens.

The house where Kadirgamar died lies on Bullers Lane. On one side, the neighbours are the Swedish Embassy. On Friday night Kadirgamar was climbing out of his private swimming pool when he was shot four times in the head, chest and throat. He was rushed to hospital, where he died.

Kadirgamar’s love of swimming was his undoing. He had been warned by his security detail not to come to the house in Bullers Lane. It is a private residence, and not as well guarded as his official residence. But Kadirgamar insisted on coming here so he could swim - there is no pool at his official residence.

The house in Bullers Lane is not well protected. There is a stone wall, but it is topped with a wire fence that would not stop any bullet, and the pool is overlooked by the windows of several neighbouring houses.

It was from one of these that the shots were fired - and here the story becomes curious. The occupants of the house, a couple who were living only on the ground floor because the wife is disabled, say the first floor was closed up and they had no idea the snipers were up there.

But upstairs, police found food wrappers and a chair fitted with a rest for a rifle. The sniper, or snipers, had even bagged their urine in plastic bags so they would not make any noise by using the toilets.

More than 1,000 Sri Lankan police are scouring the capital for the snipers.

But more questions are raised by the site. The window from which the shots were fired is in clear view of a watchtower built on the premises of Kadirgamar’s house, yet his bodyguards were unable to catch the sniper and prevent him from fleeing the scene.

Sri Lankan analysts have suggested the sophistication of the assassination suggests the Tigers were behind it. They have a reputation for being far and away one of the most proficient militant organisations in the world, and have pulled off spectacular attacks in the past.

The Tigers have a reputation for never forgiving anyone who they believe has betrayed them or acted against them.

But the timing of the killing raises questions over the Tigers’ involvement, at a time when they are not thought to be eager for a return to war.

In the east of Sri Lanka, the Tigers have been facing an internecine struggle with a breakaway faction led by a renegade former Tiger who goes by the name Colonel Karuna.

The Tigers have accused the government of secretly backing Karuna’s forces, an accusation that is widely thought to be true.

Although nobody expects the ceasefire to collapse within weeks, the death of Kadirgamar is being seen here as yet more evidence that the country is sliding back towards war. For many Sri Lankans, an uncomfortable feeling of inevitability is growing.

(Extracts from a report by The Independent newspaper published on Monday August 15)

The Independent: ‘The Tamil who took on the Tigers’ [August 15, 2005]

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