Tamil rebels began an armed uprising in 1983, after they complained of discrimination against the minority Tamil community. The rebels say they want wide-ranging autonomy for Tamil-dominated areas under their control in the north and the east.
Although a ceasefire signed in 2002 is still in force, peace talks have been on hold for more than a year. Norwegian envoys have shuttled between the government and the rebels in a bid to revive talks, but neither side can agree on an agenda to resume discussions. In 2004 the ruling party won local elections, which could strengthen the government's hand and pave the way for it to restart talks with the rebels.
In July 2004 Tamil Tigers threatened to resume a civil war halted by a peace process that began two-and-one-half-years ago. The Tigers accuse the Sri Lankan military of trying to weaken the rebel movement by using the rival rebel faction against them. The army and the government deny the charges, saying they are abiding by a ceasefire agreement signed in 2002. Several Tamil Tiger cadres had been killed in the east recently, and a suicide-bomb attack ripped Colombo, killing four policemen. Description
The Tamil people of the island of Ceylon (now called Sri Lanka) constitute a distinct nation. They form a social entity, with their own history, traditions, culture, language and traditional homeland. The Tamil people call their nation'Tamil Eelam'. Founded in 1976, the LTTE is the most powerful Tamil group in Sri Lanka and uses overt and illegal methods to raise funds, acquire weapons, and publicize its cause of establishing an independent Tamil state. The LTTE began its armed conflict with the Sri Lankan Government in 1983 and relies on a guerrilla strategy that includes the use of terrorist tactics. The group's elite Black Tiger squad conducts suicide bombings against important targets, and all rank-and-file members carry a cyanide capsule to kill themselves rather than allow themselves to be caught. The LTTE is very insular and highly organized with its own intelligence service, naval element (the Sea Tigers), and women's political and military wings.
The LTTE has integrated a battlefield insurgent strategy with a terrorist program that targets key government and military personnel, the economy, and public infrastructure. Political assassinations include the suicide bomber attacks against Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa in 1993 and Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, which is the group's only known act outside Sri Lanka. The LTTE has detonated two massive truck bombs directed against the Sri Lankan economy, one at the Central Bank in January 1996 and another at the Colombo World Trade Center in October 1997. The LTTE also has attacked several ships in Sri Lankan waters, including foreign commercial vessels and infrastructure targets such as commuter trains, buses, oil tanks, and power stations. The LTTE prefers to attack vulnerable government facilities then withdraw before reinforcements arrive, or to time its attacks to take advantage of security lapses on holidays, at night, or in the early morning.
In the past several years, the LTTE has also attacked several commercial ships flying foreign flags in the waters off the north and east of the country. In 1998, threats were directed at domestic air carriers flying between Colombo and Jaffna, and in September of that year, a domestic civilian aircraft flying from Colombo to Jaffna crashed, killing everyone on board. The cause of the accident is still unknown.
Bomb attacks remain the greatest terrorist hazard. The LTTE has attempted or carried out numerous political assassinations or attempts. In 1999, suicide bombings resulted in the death of 30 persons and injury to 143 others in Colombo, Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Jaffna and Medawachchi. In January 2000, a suicide bomber killed more than a dozen and wounded several passers-by when she detonated her bomb outside the Prime Minister's Office after being detected by security personnel. In March 2000, as many as eight LTTE terrorists attacked a government motorcade traveling on a major Colombo thoroughfare, killing 25 people and wounding many others. In June 2000, a suicide bomber assassinated the Minister for Industrial Development in a Colombo suburb. Twenty-one others were killed and 60 people were injured in the attack. In October 2000, two American and one British women and their Sri Lankan driver were seriously injured in their vehicle in Central Colombo when an LTTE suicide bomber confronted by police exploded his device rather than surrender. Three policemen were killed. In October 2001, an LTTE suicide bomber stopped by police in the vicinity of an election rally in Colombo detonated his device rather than surrender, killing five people and injuring 16 others.
In addition to individual suicide bombers, vehicle-mounted bombs have been used by the LTTE. Major hotels have been directly affected by terrorist activities and could be again because of their proximity to likely economic, government and military targets
In January 1998, the Temple of the Tooth, an important religious and tourist site in Kandy, was subjected to a truck bomb; eight people were killed, and the temple, nearby businesses and an historic hotel were damaged.
Small bombs have frequently been placed against infrastructure targets such as telephone switchgear or electrical power transformers. Public buses have also been the targets of terrorist attacks. In September 1999, bombs were detonated in buses in separate incidents in Negombo and Badula. In one week in February 2000, seven separate explosions of bombs left on public buses in Colombo and other cities killed three and wounded over 140 people. Bombs have also been found on trains and on train roadbeds, resulting in one death and injuries to over 50 people.
In May 2000, the Sri Lankan Government activated provisions of the Public Security Ordinance, giving certain government authorities sweeping powers to deal with threats to national security. The next month the LTTE gained a signifigant victory in taking the Elephant pass army garrison, located in a town on the Jaffna Peninnsula.
In February 2002 the LTTE and the Sri Lankan goverment signed a ceasefire agreement brokered by Norway. As of June 2003 the agreement appeared to be disolving. The LTTE claimed the goverment has done little to address rebel concerns and deliver on the promises made during the six rounds of peace talks. The LTTE wanted to draft an independent Tamil administration, while the Sri Lankan goverment was willing to go only as far as grantiing financial autonomy. The impasse came as involved parties planned to meet in Tokyo for a Sri Lankan financial aid conference.
Sri Lanka's president Chandrika Kumaratunga took over three government ministries, including the defense ministry, and suspended parliament in a move analysts say was aimed at weakening her political rival, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Now that the president is in control of the defense ministry, analysts say it is unclear if the president is in charge of the peace plan or if it remains in the hands of the prime minister. Given the president's hard-line approach to peace negotiations, her actions are casting doubt on whether the nearly two-year-old ceasefire with Tamil Tiger rebels from will hold.
The peace process has been going ahead. The ceasefire agreement has held for 20 months - this has never happened before in Sri Lanka. And for the first time since the armed conflict started, the LTTE put down in writing and sent a proposal. The proposal from the Tigers was a five-year plan for self-government in parts of Sri Lanka where there is a majority of ethnic Tamils. It was supposed to be discussed during the next round of negotiations, which is now on hold. President Kumaratunga has criticized the proposal, which she says amounts to virtual separation of Tamil areas from the rest of Sri Lanka.
More than 60 thousand people have died in Sri Lanka's civil war, which broke out in 1983 when the Tamil Tigers revolted against what they say was government repression.
In late January 2004 Sri Lanka's Tamil rebels warned that a newly-formed political alliance, including the country's president, could lead the country back into war. The alliance said it planned to review Norway's role as peace mediator between the government and the rebels. Tamil Rebel leader Anton Balasingham called the political alliance formed between President Chandrika Kumaratunga's Sri Lankan Freedom party and a hard-line Marxist group an "anti-peace pact." Balasingham accused the new alliance of taking "confused" positions on a serious national issue, and said this could create conditions for a resumption of the country's two-decade-long civil war. The alliance said it does not want a return to war, and supports continued negotiations with the rebels.
An aide to President Kumaratunga says the "excessive internationalization" of the conflict is endangering the country's sovereignty. Norway played a leading role in the peace process between the rebels and the government. It mediated a truce between the two sides, and helped facilitate six rounds of talks between them since. But the Norwegians put peace talks on hold in November 2003, after a political dispute between President Kumaratunga and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe left doubts about who in the government was managing the peace process. The crisis was triggered by the president's takeover of three ministries from the prime minister's government. The president and prime minister are of different parties, and in Sri Lanka they are elected separately. The Norwegians said the peace process could only continue once it was clear who is in charge. But they continued to supervise the fragile ceasefire. The rebels say the political bickering in Colombo is undermining the truce, and have asked the international community to put pressure on the government to resume negotiations.
Approximately 10,000 armed combatants in Sri Lanka; about 3,000 to 6,000 form a trained cadre of fighters. The LTTE also has a significant overseas support structure for fundraising, weapons procurement, and propaganda activities. The LTTE also has its own naval wing designated the Sea Tigers.
Location/Area of Operation
The Tigers control most of the northern and eastern coastal areas of Sri Lanka but have conducted operations throughout the island. Headquartered in the Wanni region, LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran has established an extensive network of checkpoints and informants to keep track of any outsiders who enter the group's area of control.
The LTTE's overt organizations support Tamil separatism by lobbying foreign governments and the United Nations. The LTTE also uses its international contacts to procure weapons, communications, and bombmaking equipment. The LTTE exploits large Tamil communities in North America, Europe, and Asia to obtain funds and supplies for its fighters in Sri Lanka. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam are involved in numerous trans national criminal activities, including partnerships with Pakistani heroin producers/traffickers, alien smuggling, extortion from Tamil families living abroad, and various forms of fraud. All this in order to raise funds for their insurgent activities in Sri Lanka