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January 16, 2008

When the Suicide Bomber Is a Woman

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“Do you understand you will become a human bomb?” Menake was asked by the Black Tiger leaders in her interview.

“I told them that I did,” she says. “I felt I had no other choice.” The LTTE calls its suicide missions thatkodai, Tamil for “gift of self.” It made her feel, Menake says, that her life still had a purpose.

Then came the training. “We were taught how the vest works, how to jump onto a vehicle in case our target was a bus or a truck,” she says. She learned how best to position herself, depending on her target.

“Do you know what a suicide bomb would do to your body when it explodes?” I ask her.

“I know once I put it on, I will kill people, and I will also die,” she says unemotionally. “My whole body will be in pieces. But this type of death is very fast.”

I ask Menake about her victims — the ordinary people passing by who would be killed or maimed in her attack. “I came to Colombo to destroy, to kill. We are taught to forget the victims,” she says. (Her handler remained close by, to make sure she didn’t have a change of heart.) “I was just focused on the target. I never had time to think about who else I would kill. I was simply told it was the enemy. It was a job to go and do.”

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