The Tamil Tigers’ Intelligence Wing: TOSIS


    The Tamil Tigers (LTTE) intelligence wing was the group’s eyes and ears in their 26-year struggle against the government of Sri Lanka. In 1983, the LTTE formed The Tiger Organisation Security Intelligence Service (TOSIS).It was certainly one of the most capable and sophisticated terrorist intelligence units, and adept intelligence, security and reconnaissance (ISR).

    1. Doctrine

    TOSIS gathered intelligence on potential targets. Specifically, it helped with the Black Tiger attacks carried out by the LTTE. And oversaw assassinations of opposition officials and the discovery of potential moles within the Tamil Tigers organisation. The use of women and children was also a key tactic of the TOSIS, the Tamil Tigers Intelligence wing. Indeed, this sets the organisation apart from many other terrorist organisation intelligence units. Its role within the wider LTTE group was one of the utmost importance. Since, intelligence gathered by TOSIS was fed directly in to the TIger’s strategies and tactics. Also, it was responsible for research and development (R&D) within the LTTE. Because it incorporated both failures and successes in to its training of the intelligence cadres.

    2. Organisation

    (source) image of the organisation and structure of TOSIS.

    Above all, the Tamil Tigers structured it like a national intelligence agency. With separate departments for collection, analysis and implementation of operations from intelligence. Consequently, we can see the importance of TOSIS in the LTTE structure in the man who headed the organisation. Pottu Amman , the leader of the organisation from 1983 to 2009. He was second in command to the leader of the Tamil Tigers. Therefore, the fact he was second of command of the LTTE shows the importance that was placed on intelligence activities by the LTTE leadership.

    2.1. Research and Publications Department

    Under TOSIS this department, headed by Mathaven Master, handled the intelligence product that was produced. Including daily, weekly, and monthly intelligence reports. Furthermore, it organised the intelligence gathered in Data banks. That TOSIS produced reports such as this shows intelligence to be an integral part of the LTTE organisation, akin to national intelligence reports that are disseminated to global leaders. The organisation of collected intelligence into data banks would allow TOSIS to access intelligence on demand.

    2.2. Collection Department

    This department was the largest within the Tamil Tigers intelligence wing. It handled all things related to the collection of intelligence. This included intelligence gathered from agents and covert espionage activities. It conducted operations in all parts of Sri Lanka not under LTTE control. It was also in charge of internal security, controlling the police in LTTE controlled territory.

    2.3.Training and Tech Division

    The training and technology division of TOSIS was responsible for the development of training for its members. It was also responsible for the R&D of ‘advanced’ technologies for the entire LTTE organisation. This included the development of more deadly and effective suicide vests and modern military weapons.

    2.4. Special Ops Division

    The Special ops division of TOSIS was the most feared division of the Tamil Tigers intelligence wing. It handled the Black Tigers – the highly feared suicide division. The leader of the LTTE directly oversaw them. What makes this division unique is that women were also members of the Black Tigers. The Black Tigers were the unit responsible for many of the attacks, both conventional and unconventional, carried out by the Tamil Tigers.

    Indeed, the responsibilities of the Tiger Organisation Security Intelligence Service were vast and crucial. The LTTE tasked them with many of the elements that contributed to the success of the LTTE. Without TOSIS, it is reasonable to assume that the longevity enjoyed the by the insurgent movement would not have been as long lasting.

    3. Tactics, Techniques and Procedures – TTP’s of TOSIS and the Black Tigers

    TOSIS from its inception in 1983, The Tamil Tigers intelligence wing received training by the Indian Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). Lasting between 1983 and 1987. However, following the Indian withdrawal from Sri Lanka in 1989, TOSIS leant on the ISI, Pakistan’s Intelligence agency for training, especially on intelligence collection. With Pakistan hoping to destabilise India.

    LTTE and TOSIS in their TTP’s are somewhat of a terrorist organisation trailblazer. Al-Qaeda later used many of the TTPs adopted by TOSIS. This included the suicide vest/belt. Another key tactic employed by TOSIS was using women and children to collect intelligence information and carry out attacks.

    3.1. The suicide attacks of TOSIS

    Suicide attacks were one of the key tactics employed by TOSIS. The LTTE carried out over 200 suicide attacks before their defeat. The planning and execution of which are tightly controlled by the LTTE intelligence wing. TOSIS conducts surveillance on targets both soft and hard. A member of TOSIS usually accompanied the perpetrator of the suicide attack to ensure that the attacks go to plan. (source)

    We, therefore, credit the development of a new modus operandi of suicide attacks through a training and technology division to TOSIS. The blueprint to which other terrorist cells use today.

    3.2. Assassinations by TOSIS

    The Tiger Organisation Security Intelligence Service is also responsible for the assassinations carried out by LTTE. It gathers and distributes the intelligence used in the planning of each assassination. Each assassination has a dry run to provide greater operational security. The targets of these assassinations are prominent political and military figures, as well as leaders of opposition groups.

    3.3. The Women and Children of TOSIS

    TOSIS is renowned for its use of both women and children in its intelligence activities. It used women both to gather intelligence and to carry out attacks. This is another part of LTTE intelligence that other terrorist organisations have copied. Most notably the Black Widows of the Chechnya. Similar to women in TOSIS that are also members of the elite Black Tigers. (source)

    Children were actively used to gather intelligence since it is paramount in penetration testing of targets. The Tiger Organisation Security Intelligence Service gave children training in intelligence gathering and would report back to senior leadership. Children were also used to fight alongside adults in conflict by the LTTE and TOSIS. With some serving as bodyguards for the Pottu Amman, the head of TOSIS. (source)

    3.4. Internal Security

    Like many terrorist organisations internal security is essential for the survival of the group. TOSIS rooted out potential moles from the Sri Lankan government and RAW. The most high-profile mole discovered by the group was Gopalaswamy Mahendraraja, aka Mahattaya. The LTTE killed Mahattaya, when it discovered him leaking information about the LTTE to RAW. (source)

    4. Operations carried out by TOSIS

    The Eyes of the Tiger handled several high-profile attacks and assassinations during the LTTE struggle with the Sri Lankan authorities. The most notable being the assassination of Rajiv Ghandi.

    4.1. The Assassination of Rajiv Ghandi

    The Black Tigers assassinated Rajiv Ghandi, the former Prime Minister of India, in 1991. A SpecOps group controlled by the Tiger Organisation Security Intelligence Service. They carried the assassination out at a public rally. Importantly, this was a show of strength by LTTE and TOSIS. This was the first, and only, assassination by TOSIS outside of Sri Lanka carried that out. Pottu Amman, the head of TOSIS, carried out the planning of this assassination. (source) This attack also showed that women were an integral cog in the Black Tigers operation, since the suicide bomber was a woman.

    4.2. Operation Ellaalan

    Operation Ellaalan was another attack coordinated by the Tiger Organisation Security Intelligence Service and executed by the Black Tigers. The attack on the Sri Lankan Air Force base was a combined effort by air and ground troops from LTTE. It resulted in 13 Sri Lankan Air Force (SRAF) killed and 18 wounded. It was attacks like this that showed the depth of target intelligence collected by TOSIS before conducting operations. In addition, the group temporarily controlled the base. (source)

    5. Summary

    The ingenuity and tactics displayed by TOSIS, likely influenced other terrorist organisations. Especially, the importance placed on the use of intelligence to maintain successful operations and group longevity. From the use and implementation of the S-Vest to utilising both women and children in the collection of intelligence. We can consider TOSIS as one of the most affective terrorist intelligence wings to date.

    Bobby Payne
    Bobby Payne
    Bobby has ten years experience in contracts management and business ownership. He is an alumni of the University of East Anglia where he studied history, focussing on Spanish colonisation. He is currently studying MA Intelligence and Security Studies at Brunel University. His research focus is on terrorism and geopolitics.

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