Register Sunday | June 24 | 2018

The Suicide Club

Velupillai Prabhakaran died in May, but the Tamil Tiger leader survives through his most famous innovation: the suicide bomb.

On May 18, cell phones across Sri Lanka flashed with a text message that provoked street celebrations in the capital: Velupillai Prabhakaran had been killed by government forces.

Head of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Prabhakaran had acquired a reputation as a ruthless and resourceful guerrilla commander. Much of that notoriety was due to the suicide-bombing techniques he pioneered in his twenty-six-year quest for an independent Tamil state. His “Black Tiger” cadre—whose members came from mostly Hindu and Christian backgrounds—was the first to use suicide vests, which allowed access to difficult-to-reach targets (including underwater bombings to sink ships). They were the first to pack military-grade explosives with ball bearings, thereby increasing the lethal effectiveness of their attacks. They were also among the first to stymie attempts at profiling bombers by recruiting women (explosives were strapped around their waists to give a pregnant appearance) and even children ...

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