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October Today in Terrorism

October 24, 1994: Female suicide bomber kills politician in Sri Lanka

On October 24, 1994 a female LTTE suicide bomber killed Sri Lankan politician Gamini Dissanayake and 50 others.

THOTALANGA, SRI LANKA – We may disagree with politicians and we can elect not to elect them. What we cannot do is kill them.

Politics has often been called a dirty game. Many believe that those who run for office seldom have any real interests in mind beyond their own. They grow rich, get fat pensions, and in the worst cases accept bribes and even act to prevent others from taking their place in government.

A recent Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) piece noted that since 1960, a dozen heads of state across sub-Saharan Africa have held office for more than thirty years as incumbents have increasingly used so-called constitutional coups to secure longer terms. I guess it sure beats looking for a new job!

L’etat really c’est moi! (Photo: Paul Kagame on flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

As a consequence some drop out of the democratic process, refusing to participate in voting. A few remain active, challenging politicians to do more (or to reflect parochial special interests). Some even throw gravel at candidates they don’t like.

Rocks (‘very small rocks’ as John Cleese said in Monty Python and the Holy Grail) are one thing: a suicide bombing is something else.

On this day in 1994

A female Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) suicide bomber killed Sri Lankan politician Gamini Dissanayake, leader of the parliamentary opposition and a presidential candidate in an election scheduled for that November, and 50 others. Police found the head of the attacker on a nearby rooftop (fun (?) fact: suicide bombs often send the head of the wearer flying off intact metres away).

The important questions would be, ‘Why now?’ and ‘What next?’

Raja Gunesekere, the former head of Sri Lanka’s oldest law school.

The LTTE engaged in a decades-long war against the Sri Lankan government in its quest for an independent homeland for the nation’s Tamils. Many of their victims were politicians. I guess killing them was the highest form of displeasure.

Too bad the bomber didn’t use ‘rocks, small ones’ instead of a device packed with metal pellets to express that displeasure.

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By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. and Director of the National Security programme at the University of Ottawa’s Professional Development Institute (PDI). Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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