Published On: Sun, Feb 25th, 2018

Ltte Brigadier Athavan aka Gadaffi


Who was the most underrated LTTE commander/ political leader?

I consider Gadaffi aka Athavan aka Viduthalai as one of the underrated LTTE commanders. As he had mostly worked behind the scene he didn’t get the recognition which he deserved. Obviously his contribution to the organization was very well understood by the LTTE leaders within the Organization but outside people knew very less about his actual work.

Image: Gadaffi standing behind during LTTE chief’s historical press meet at Kilinochchi in 2002.

He was the man who worked very hard and laid the strong foundation of LTTE.

But he has been mostly remembered/ known for two things:

Longtime bodyguard of LTTE chief Prabhakaran.
SAM (surface to air missile) specialist.

Bodyguard of the leader:

It was senior commander Ponnamman who identified Gaddafi’s sharp shooting skills and recommended his name to LTTE chief. As a result he went on to serve as the bodyguard of Prabhakaran for a very long time. From 1995 to 2002 he served as the chief commander of Imran-Pandian Brigade which was specifically created to protect LTTE chief.

Image: Gaddafi with LTTE chief.

SAM Specialist:

Gaddafi was one of the 10 LTTE cadres selected by India( RAW ) for anti-aircraft warfare training.

Image: Avro 748 Aircraft similar to the one shot down by LTTE in 1995.

In 1995 within two days LTTE shot down two Avro Planes[1] [2] near SLAF Palaly Air Base. It was none other than Gaddafi who shot both these planes. It was the first instance in the history of SL Civil War when LTTE used SAM to attack SLAF. Later LTTE went on to shoot down several aircrafts.

This two attacks which killed more than 100 Air-Force personnel including officers had huge psychological effects on the Government Forces and LTTE went on to win most of the battles during Eelam War 3 (1995–2002)[3] .

In the below link video you can watch a LTTE fighter shooting down a MI-24 Helicopter using SAM.

SAM missiles shot down Srilankan Helicopter MI 24.

Chief of LTTE Military Training School:

Gadaffi had contributed more to the organization as the chief of LTTE’s military training School. He went on to build a strong foundation for the LTTE.

Recruiting and training new cadres
Identifying the hidden talent of the young cadres
Feeding confidence into the minds of the young cadres
Grooming future LTTE commanders.

Whenever Prabhakaran asked him he effectively founded many important units:

Black Tigers Unit (Suicide Squad)
Lt.Col. Radha anti-Aircarft Unit ( Bodyguards of Prabhakaran)
Lt.Col.Victor Anti-Tank Unit
Mayuran Sniper Unit
Col.Shankar Deep penetration Unit
Sembiyan Spy Unit
Armored Unit
Military Training Schools

Image: Gadaffi presenting prize to winner of LTTE’s sharp shooting competition.

Gadaffi was the one who would provide formal training and instrutions to Cadres who become Black Tigers(both land and sea black tigers)
Black Tigers selected for their specified(final) operations.
Special teams selected for specified operations
Military brigades preparing for offensive and counter offensive operations.

In short along with Prabhakaran and Bottu Amman he was one of the few LTTE commanders who knew exactly what was happening inside LTTE right from black tiger operations to other military operations . He looked after all the trainings across all the three wings of LTTE: Regular land Force, Sea Tigers and Air Tigers. So nothing was hidden from him.

Eg. During LTTE’s counter offensive in 1999 in Wanni he was one of the very few LTTE commanders who knew the strategy. At that time even top LTTE commanders were not told about LTTE’s operations. ( If you didn’t know you can read full details of the LTTE’s Operation Unceasing Waves 3 (1999) operations in the below answer).

Gopal R’s answer to Do you think that Sri Lanka would have won the Eelam War if India, China, Pakistan, and the US did not help them?


During the decisive battle of Ananthapuram 2009 he was one of the many top LTTE commanders trapped inside the Puthukudiyiruppu Region. He was severely injured and knowing that it was impossible for LTTE to move him out of the battle field he bit cyanide vial and committed suicide.

He was promoted as brigadier posthumously.

Battle of Ananthapuram(2009)[4] : Two different theories:

1)Battle of Ananthapuram was a large scale offensive operation which LTTE was planning to halt the rapid advancements of the Government Forces. They say Prabhakaran left the Puthukudiyiruppu region on 27th March 2009. The battle intensified on 29th March and ended on 4th April 2009. Bhanu was the only top commander who escaped the siege on 2nd April. When Army asked them them to surrender hundreds of LTTE cadres refused to surrender and fought till the last. On 5th April Army dig out hundreds of dead bodies of LTTE cadres. Many have committed suicide.

Actually they say after the end of Second World War(1939–1945) nowhere in the World such intense shelling at a small region was ever carried out. Government forces even used chemical weapons. When the Government released the footage it was really gory and sad moment to see LTTE’s legendary commader Theepan lying there with the upper layer of his skin peeled off completely.

2)There was also a parallel rumor that the Battle of Ananthapuram was not a LTTE offensive but a large scale rescue operation to save LTTE chief Prabhakaran who was trapped in the region at that time. It says that Prabhakaran escaped from the region on 2nd April with Bhanu.

Also it seems that so many LTTE commanders and military units were on virtually suicidal mission to save the leader. I am sure they very well knew assembling too many military units at a single area could be suicidal. While they successfully saved the leader but in the process lost most of their fighting capabilities.

While I believe in the first theory but only reason I slighly believe in the second theory is the presence of Gadaffi(in-charge of Prabhakaran’s protection) in the region. Most probably he was there to protect the leader and later due to the intensity of the battle unable to escape with the leader.

As LTTE is no more just like plenty of other rumors/secrets of SL Civil War we will never know if it was an Offensive or rescue operation.

Image: Top LTTE leaders (from left) Tamilchelvan, Gaddafi, Prabhakaran, Soosai, Shankar and Tamilendhi during a Heroes Day observation.

He may or may not be alive but he was the backbone of LTTE’s strong foundation.

So I consider Gadaffi aka Aathavan as LTTE’s best man on the said field on the lines with: Land battles: Balraj( Theepan will also come very close), Sea Battles: Soosai, Intelligence wing : Pottu Amman, Intelligence Field commander ; Charles, Engineering : Raju, Military Training: Gadaffi.


[1] 1995 Sri Lanka Air Force Avro 748 (CR834) shootdown – Wikipedia

[2] 1995 Sri Lanka Air Force Avro 748 (CR835) shootdown – Wikipedia

[3] Eelam War III – Wikipedia

[4] Battle of Aanandapuram – Wikipedia

[5] Former LTTE member arrested at Katunayake

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