|Special Task Force|
|Active||1983 - present|
|Branch||Sri Lanka Police Service|
|Type||Special Forces/Light Infantry|
|Role||Special Operations Force, Domestic Counter-Terrorism and Law Enforcement|
|Size||Approx. 6000 personnel|
|Motto(s)||Niyatha Jaya(Certain Victory)|
|Engagements||Sri Lankan Civil War|
|Commandant||Deputy Inspector General of Police R. W. M. C. Ranawana|
|Inspector General of Police||N.K.Ilangakoon|
The Special Task Force (STF) (Sinhala: විශේෂ කාර්ය බලකාය Tamil: சிறப்பு அதிரடிப் படை) is an elite special forces unit of the Sri Lanka Police Service specializing in counter-terrorism (CT) and counter-insurgency operations. It was formed in 1983 not as a military force but rather as a highly specialised police unit.
The STF heads counter-terrorism missions and – as the most highly trained police organisation in Sri Lanka – it would be the lead unit whenever law enforcement forces engaged the Tamil Tigers (LTTE). The STF is mostly stationed in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka where the LTTE was wiped out. Some small number of units have placed in Mannar District and Vavuniya District. Other units are based in Colombo and provide VIP security. The STF is internationally recognized for its expertise in these areas and it is often invited to assist foreign law enforcement agencies with planning major events such as the 2008 Beijing Olympics and in dealing with possible terrorist threats.
When the Special Task Force (STF) was formed in 1983, it comprised mainly existing policemen. It was headed by the 1960 Rome Olympian and existing Senior Superintendent of Police, Dharmasiri Weerakoon. The STF were trained by the Sri Lankan Army in the handling of Infantry weapons and were given basic training in Jungle warfare. They deeply resemble a para-military organisation and later separate training facilities for the Special Task Force have been established in Kalutara, 42 kilometers south of Colombo. The first platoons formed were deployed in the North of Sri Lanka to provide additional support for Police Stations and to stem the LTTE separatists.
The STF was enhanced considerably in 1983 when former British Special Air Service (SAS) crack teams were brought in to provide specialized training in all aspects of Counter Terrorism and Counter insurgency operations. The SAS experts trained the STF troops at Katukurunda wing of the Police College, after making the training school into a sophisticated training complex. Later, the STF experts took over from the SAS in 1988. Today the STF has a fully-fledged training wing, regarded as one of the best in South East Asia. August 11, 1984, that the Israel Security Agency Shin Beth was involved in the training of the Sri Lankan armed forces. Many officers belonging to Israel were also involved in the training of the Sri Lankan soldiers in Colombo.
By 1987, heavily involved in the Sri Lankan civil war, the STF was in control of the area from Kiran to Potuvil in the Batticaloa District. The STF was deployed in Company formation into 15 separate camps. When the Indian Peace Keeping Force was moved into the Batticaloa in 1987 as part of the ongoing peace process, the STF was in complete control of Batticoloa, and had restored a level of normalcy to the area. From 1983 to 1987 when the STF was in control over Batticoloa not a single STF camp had come under attack from the LTTE.
Operation Niyathai Jaya (Definite Victory)
In its first major operation since the signing of the ceasefire agreement in 2002, Special Task Force troops launched a limited offensive named "Definite Victory" (In Sinhala: නියතයිි ජය) on January 4, 2007 against LTTE rebels in the Kanchikudichcharu and Thoppigala south regions of the Ampara District, as a reaction to the child abductions in Bakmitiyawa, Ampara and abduction of two teachers and 23 Tamil children in December 2006 while they were returning from extra classes to their homes.
As a result of this offensive, the elite police commandos were able to overrun more than fifteen (15) rebel camps including the Stanly Base, which was the main LTTE camp in the Ampara District and a regional intelligence and supply camp of the LTTE, Bagayadi Base, where local and foreign foodstuffs and sanitary material was stored, Janak Base, which made clothing identical to Sri Lanka Army and Special Task Force uniforms, Jeewan Base, which was another supply camp from which the STF was able to recover four vehicles and the Diana Base where LTTE leaders meet. This camp was furnished with luxury items which were denied to the ordinary LTTE cadres.
After the fall of Stanly Base, STF troops were able to find an explosive laden truck and a motor cycle that the rebels were planning to use to carry out suicide attacks in the capital of Colombo. And it is also reported that LTTE was housing a large number of child soldiers conscripted by them in this camp. Other than that, STF troops were able to recover a large quantity of arms and ammunition, coffins, large number of anti-personnel mines, vehicles , satellite and radio receivers, global positioning systems, power generators, boats with name and logo of the Non Governmental Organization "Save the Children", tents with the logo of "UNHCR" and a fully equipped hospital donated to the militants by a Dutch INGO named ZOA Refugee Care This NGO donated hospital is named by the tigers as Thileepan memorial hospital. STF also said that they also found a water tanker truck donated by, the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO) which is a front organization of the LTTE, who collect funds especially in the United States and Canada purportedly for civilians, but actually for the militant group. However, aid workers argue that the supplies must have been taken after they evacuated their office due to heavy fighting. Jeevan Thiagarajah, the head of the Consortium for Humanitarian Agencies, has stated that the matter is simply a misunderstanding.
The Special Task Force has been accused of various human rights abuses including extrajudicial killings and involvement in the disappearance of individuals.
- According to a United Nations commissioned study conducted in 1997, the STF was the arresting agency in 5% of the 1219 reported cases of disappearances in the Batticaloa district in North Eastern Province between 1988 and 1996.
- Additionally, after a visit to Sri Lanka from 24 August to 5 September in the same year, UN Special Rapporteur Bacre Waly Ndiaye reported the existence of allegations that individuals had died "while in the custody of the Special Task Force of Sri Lanka in Colombo".
- At least two incidents of extrajudicial killings involving members of the STF have also been noted by the Sri Lankan government or outside observers. Following the newest round of fighting between the government and the LTTE starting in April 1994, the mutilated bodies of between 21 and 31 Tamil males were discovered in rivers and lakes near Colombo.
- On August 17, 10 STF officers (and 15 others) were charged with committing the murders, which allegedly took place at the STF headquarters in Colombo. In addition, at least 17 extrajudicial killings were carried out by Sri Lankan security forces (including the STF) in Eastern Province in retaliation for LTTE attacks. Human rights monitors "determined" the deceased to be "civilians", but security forces maintained that they were LTTE members.
Commandants of the Special Task Force
- SDIG Dharmasiri Weerakoon (pioneering STF commandant)
- SDIG Bodhi Liayange
- SDIG Zerney Wijesuriya
- SDIG Lionel Karunasena
- SDIG Dharmasiri Weerakoon
- DIG R. W. M. C. Ranawana
- DIG Nimal Gunatilleke
- DIG Nimal Lewke
- DIG K.M.L. Sarathchandra
- Land vehicles
- Type 84 (W84) 82 mm mortars
- Type 89 60 mm mortars
- Small arms
- The Perfect Soldier: Special Operations, Commandos, and the Future of U.S. Warfare by James F. Dunnigan
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- "The Deadly Mahasohon Brigade". StrategyWorld.com. September 19, 2007. http://www.strategypage.com/dls/articles/200791921302.asp.
- "Sri Lankan anti-terror police to advise on Beijing Olympics". Associated Press. 8 November 2006. http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/wire?section=oly&id=2653935.
- "Strength, Sri Lanka". Photius Coutsoukis. 12 November 2004. http://www.photius.com/countries/sri_lanka/national_security/sri_lanka_national_security_strength.html.
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- "Torture chambers used by Tamil LTTE found: Defense Ministry". Lankaeverything. 16 January 2007. http://www.lankaeverything.com/vinews/srilanka/20070116005410.php?PHPSESSID=5b999d49f4ce70e551fcbe69a4f56026.
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- "Elite commando forces of the police over runs a large Tamil Tiger base in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka". To The Center. 8 January 2007. http://www.tothecenter.com/news.php?readmore=637.
- "Tamil Tigers in a death groan in the East of Sri Lanka, after the STF capture of Janak Camp in Amparai". Asian Tribune. 12 January 2007. http://www.asiantribune.com/index.php?q=node/4102.
- "Three LTTE camps tumble as STF advances in the East". Ministry of Defence, Sri Lanka. 13 January 2007. http://www.defence.lk/new.asp?fname=20070113_09.
- "Sri Lanka commandos capture truck packed with Tamil explosives". The China Post. 12 January 2007. http://www.chinapost.com.tw/news/archives/asiapacific/2007110/99637.htm.
- "Rebel base falls in east Sri Lanka". United Press International. 12 January 2007. http://www.sttammany.com/news-detail/article/780/rebel-base-f.html.
- "Rebel's camp captured in Sri Lanka's east". People's Daily Online. 11 January 2007. http://english.people.com.cn/200701/11/eng20070111_340346.html.
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- "Colombo tightens transport security". Gulf Times Newspaper. 10 January 2007. http://www.gulf-times.com/site/topics/article.asp?cu_no=2&item_no=126642&version=1&template_id=44&parent_id=24.
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- Publisher : Citadel, Year:(June 1, 2003), Language: English, ISBN 0-8065-2415-4 / ISBN 978-0-8065-2415-3
- President of Sri Lanka
- Government of Sri Lanka
- Ministry of Defence Sri Lanka
- Sri Lankan Police Official Website
- Official History
- 'You give us courage, fortitude to safeguard country's unity and territorial integrity'
- Sri Lanka Police Official Website excerpt
- 21st Commemoration of STF war heroes : 'You give us courage, fortitude to safeguard country's unity and territorial integrity'
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