US embassy cable - 97COLOMBO3548

MORE ON THE LTTE ATTACK ON US-CHARTERED MV CORDIALITY - A NEW LTTE TACTIC?

Identifier: 97COLOMBO3548
Wikileaks: View 97COLOMBO3548 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Colombo
Created: 1997-09-12 11:02:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PTER EWWT MOPS CE
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
R 121102Z SEP 97
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 0669
INFO DIA WASHINGTON DC
COMSEVENTHFLT 
AMEMBASSY JAKARTA 
AMEMBASSY MANILA 
AMEMBASSY DHAKA 
AMEMBASSY BEIJING 
CINCPACFLT PEARL HARBOR HI
USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI
AMEMBASSY BANGKOK 
AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 
AMEMBASSY SEOUL 
AMCONSUL CHENNAI 
AMEMBASSY PANAMA 
AMCONSUL KARACHI 
AMEMBASSY LONDON 
AMEMBASSY OTTAWA 
AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 
USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 
AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 
AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 
AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE 
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 003548 
 
 
E.O. 12958:  DECL:  09/12/01 
TAGS:  PTER, EWWT, MOPS, CE 
SUBJECT:  MORE ON THE LTTE ATTACK ON 
US-CHARTERED MV CORDIALITY - A NEW LTTE 
TACTIC? 
 
REF:  COLOMBO 03477 
 
1.  (U)  CLASSIFIED BY POLITICAL COUNSELOR 
ANDREW MANN.  REASON:  1.5 (D). 
 
2.  (C)  THE OWNER OF THE COMPANY HIRED TO 
SALVAGE MV CORDIALITY WHICH WAS ATTACKED IN 
THE EARLY MORNING HOURS ON SEPTEMBER 9 (SEE 
REFTEL) HAS PROVIDED ADDITIONAL DETAILS OF 
THE ATTACK.  THE SHIP HAD BEEN LOADING 
ILMENITE FOR OVER A WEEK, USING LARGE 
NUMBERS OF LOCAL WORKERS.  IT HELD ALMOST 
29,000 TONS OF AN ESTIMATED 30,000 TON LOAD 
AT THE TIME OF THE ATTACK.  THE SHIP WAS 
SURROUNDED BY A NUMBER OF SRI LANKA NAVAL 
CRAFT. 
 
3.  (C)  EVIDENTLY, THE LTTE TOOK ADVANTAGE 
OF AN UNSECURED GANGPLANK TO GAIN ENTRY 
ONTO THE SHIP QUICKLY.  THEY THREW GRENADES 
INTO THE ENGINE ROOM CAUSING EXTENSIVE 
DAMAGE.  THE SALVAGE COMPANY OWNER SAID THE 
LTTE TRIED TO TAKE SOME OF THE CHINESE CREW 
MEMBERS HOSTAGE.  IT IS NOT KNOWN IF IT WAS 
SUCCESSFUL.  FIVE CREW MEMBERS ARE STILL 
MISSING. 
 
4.  (C)  FIRE FROM THE GRENADE ATTACK 
SPREAD TO SOME OF THE LIVING QUARTERS.  THE 
FIRES WERE DOUSED BY SLN FORCES RESPONDING 
TO THE ATTACK, BUT THE ENGINE ROOM WAS 
EFFECTIVELY DESTROYED.  DUE TO THE AMOUNT 
OF WATER USED TO COMBAT THE FLAMES, THE 
STERN NOW SITS LOWER IN THE WATER THAN THE 
BOW.  DURING THE ATTACK, RPG'S HAD RIPPED 
THROUGH THE SIDE OF THE SHIP BUT ABOVE THE 
WATER LINE.  THE SHIP WAS/IS NOT IN DANGER 
OF SINKING.  THE SHIP IS TOWABLE TO EITHER 
TRINCOMALEE OR COLOMBO DEPENDING UPON THE 
DETERMINATION OF THE INSURANCE COMPANY. 
 
5.  (U)  IN A FAX FROM ITS LONDON OFFICE, 
THE LTTE JUSTIFIED ITS ATTACK ON MV 
CORDIALITY:  "THE ROBBERY OF OUR NATURAL 
RESOURCES BY THE RELENTLESS ENEMY CANNOT BE 
PERMITTED."  IT ARGUED THE ILMENITE WAS A 
NATURAL RESOURSE OF TAMIL EELAM, BEING 
"SYSTEMATICALLY PLUNDERED" BY THE SINHALA 
GOVERNMENT TO BE SOLD ABROAD WITH THE 
PROCEEDS USED TO PURCHASE ARMS AGAINST THE 
TAMIL PEOPLE. 
 
6.  (U)  PERHAPS IN RESPONSE TO THE USG 
JULY 25 STATEMENT CONDEMNING LTTE 
INTERFERENCE WITH INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING, 
THE LTTE SAID ITS ATTACK "SHOULD NOT BE 
CONSTRUED AS AN ACT OF HOSTILITY DIRECTED 
TOWARDS ANY PARTICULAR TRADE OR SHIPPING 
ORGANIZATION.  NEITHER SHOULD IT BE 
INFERRED AS AN ACT PREJUDICIAL TO 
INTERNATIONAL TRADE OR SHIPPING."  THE LTTE 
STATEMENT EXPRESSED REGRET FOR THE LOSS OF 
LIFE, BUT THE ORGANIZATION, IT CLAIMED, HAS 
COMPELLED TO ACT IN ORDER TO PREVENT THE 
REMOVAL AND SALE OF EELAM RESOURCES AND TO 
"BEAT THE WAR STRATEGY" OF THE GSL. 
 
7.  (U)  COMMENT.  THE LTTE HAS PREVIOUSLY 
ATTACKED FOREIGN-FLAGGED COMMERCIAL VESSELS 
(MAY 97 ATTACK ON GREEK CARGO SHIP OUTSIDE 
TRINCOMALEE; AUGUST 96 ATTACK OF 
JAPANESE-OWNED, PHILIPPINE-FLAGGED CARGO 
SHIP IN PULMODDAI - NEAR THE SITE OF THE 
RECENT ATTACK (THE LTTE REFERRED TO THIS 
ATTACK IN ITS FAX); APRIL 96 ATTACK ON 
COLOMBO HARBOR LEAVING THREE CARGO SHIPS 
SLIGHTLY DAMAGED) IN ADDITION TO ITS JULY 
ATTACKS ON AN INDONESIA-FLAGGED PASSENGER 
FERRY AND A NORTH KOREAN CARGO SHIP.  THE 
LTTE HAD ALSO SAID IN THE PAST ANY VESSEL 
(FOREIGN-OWNED OR SRI LANKAN) IN "TAMIL 
TERRITORIAL WATERS" ENGAGED IN "ACTIVITIES 
ASSOCIATED WITH THE SRI LANKAN MILITARY" 
WILL BE CONSIDERED A LEGITIMATE TARGET. 
 
8.  (C)  THIS ATTACK IS WORRISOME FOR TWO 
REASONS.  FIRST, THE LTTE APPEARS WILLING 
TO ENGAGE A MAJOR POWER.  OUR SOURCE SAID 
IT WAS NOT POSSIBLE NOT TO HAVE KNOWN THE 
SHIP WAS CHINESE-OWNED AFTER A WEEK AT 
ANCHOR.  SECONDLY, THE ECONOMIC 
JUSTIFICATION USED BY THE LTTE COULD PUT 
ALL ECONOMIC ACTIVITY IN THE NORTH EAST AT 
RISK.  THIS ATTACK MAY SIGNAL THE GSL'S 
EFFORTS TO TAKE THE WAR TO THE LTTE IS 
HAVING SOME SUCCESS IN SQUEEZING IT.  THE 
LTTE MAY BE LASHING OUT TO CAUSE THE 
GOVERNMENT TO DIVERT RESOURCES TO PROTECT 
ECONOMIC ACTIVITY, THUS GIVING THE LTTE A 
BREAK ON THE GROUND AND SEA.  END COMMENT. 
 
 
SMYTH 

Latest source of this page is cablebrowser-2, released 2011-10-04