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Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
Ltte emblem.jpg
The official emblem of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
Dates of operation May 5, 1976 – present;
Defeated as a conventional organization on May 17, 2009
Leader Visvanathan Rudrakumaran[1]
Motives The creation of a separate Tamil state in the north and east of Sri Lanka
Active region(s) Canada Canada[citation needed] [2] United Kingdom United Kingdom[3], Norway Norway And Others [4]
Ideology Tamil nationalism
Notable attacks Central Bank bombing, Palliyagodella massacre, Dehiwala train bombing and others.
Status Proscribed as a terrorist organization by 32 countries.[5]
Annual revenue $300–500 Million
Means of revenue Donations from expatriate Tamils, Sale of Narcotics,[6] Extortion[6][7] Shipping, Sales of weapons, Taxes under LTTE controlled areas, Bank of Tamileelam

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (Tamil: தமிழீழ விடுதலைப் புலிகள், ISO 15919: tamiḻ īḻa viṭutalaip pulikaḷ; commonly known as the LTTE or the Tamil Tigers) was a separatist organization formerly based in northern Sri Lanka. Founded in May 1976, it waged a violent secessionist campaign that sought to create an independent Tamil state in the north and east of Sri Lanka.[8] This campaign evolved into the Sri Lankan Civil War, which was one of the longest running armed conflicts in Asia until the LTTE was defeated by the Sri Lankan Military in May 2009.[9][10]

The Tigers, who during the height of their power possessed a well-developed militia, were notorious for recruiting child soldiers, for carrying out civilian massacres, suicide bombings and various other high profile attacks, including the assassinations of several high-ranking Sri Lankan and Indian politicians like Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa in 1993, and former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991.[11] They pioneered the use of suicide bombing as a tactic.[12][13] They also pioneered the use of women in suicide attacks,[14] and used light aircraft in some of their attacks.[15] They are currently proscribed as a terrorist organization by 32 countries (see list of countries), but have extensive support amongst the Tamil diaspora in Europe and North America, and amongst some Tamils in India.[16][17] Since its inception, and until his death, the LTTE was headed by its founder, Velupillai Prabhakaran.

Over the course of the conflict, the Tamil Tigers frequently exchanged control of territory in north-east Sri Lanka with the Sri Lankan military, engaging in fierce confrontations in the process. They were also involved in peace talks to end the conflict four times, each time unsuccessfully. At the start of the final round of peace talks in 2002, they had a 15,000 km2 area under their control. However after the breakdown of the peace process in 2006, the Sri Lankan military launched a major offensive against the Tigers, bringing the entire country under their control and defeating the LTTE militarily. Victory over the Tigers was declared by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on May 16, 2009,[18] and the LTTE admitted defeat on May 17, 2009.[19] Prabhakaran was subsequently killed by government forces on May 19, 2009. Selvarasa Pathmanathan took over the leadership, however he was arrested, and interrogated by the Sri Lankan authorities.[20] Following Pathmanathan's arrest, Visvanathan Rudrakumaran became the de facto leader.[1]





The LTTE was founded on May 5, 1976 by Velupillai Prabhakaran, as a successor to the Tamil New Tigers, a militant group most notable for the assassination of the Mayor of Jaffna, Alfred Duraiyappah in 1975.[21] Prabhakaran sought to "refashion the old TNT/new LTTE into an elite, ruthlessly efficient, and highly professional fighting force",[21] which, as terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna notes, he did by "keeping [his] numbers small, maintaining a high standard of training, [and] enforcing discipline at all levels".[22] According to the Indian media news channel "ibnCNN," the LTTE's main members including Prabhakaran were trained by the Indian Army[23] and Indian intelligence agency "RAW" which attracted many supporters among disenchanted Tamil youth. They carried out low-key attacks against various government targets, including policemen and local politicians.[citation needed]

The LTTE carried out their first major attack on July 23, 1983 when they ambushed a Sri Lanka Army troop transport outside Jaffna. 13 Sri Lankan soldiers were killed in the attack, leading to the Black July riots against the Tamil community of Sri Lanka. The subsequent anger amongst the Tamil community resulted in numerous Tamil youths joining Tamil militant groups to fight the Sri Lankan government, in what is considered start of the insurgency in Sri Lanka.[citation needed]

Rise to power

Initially, LTTE operated in cooperation with other Tamil militant groups which shared their objectives, and in April 1984, the LTTE formally joined a common militant front, the Eelam National Liberation Front (ENLF), a union between LTTE, the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO), the Eelam Revolutionary Organisation of Students (EROS), the People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) and the Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF).[24]

TELO usually held the Indian view of problems and pushed for India's view during peace talks with Sri Lanka and other groups. LTTE denounced the TELO view and claimed that India was only acting on its own interest. As a result in 1986, the LTTE broke from the ENLF. Soon fighting broke out between the TELO and the LTTE and clashes occurred over the next few months.[25][26] As a result almost the entire TELO leadership and many of the TELO militants were killed by the LTTE.[27][28][29] The LTTE attacked training camps of the EPRLF a few months later, forcing it to withdraw entirely from the Jaffna peninsula.[24][27]

The LTTE then demanded that all remaining Tamil insurgents join the LTTE. Notices were issued to that effect in Jaffna and in Madras, India where the Tamil groups were headquartered. With the major groups including the TELO and EPRLF eliminated, the remaining Tamil insurgent groups, numbering around 20, were then absorbed into the LTTE, making Jaffna an LTTE-dominated city.[27]

LTTE's practice such as wearing a cyanide vial for consumption if captured appealed to the Tamil people as dedication and sacrifice. Another practice that increased support by Tamil people was LTTE's practice of taking an oath of loyalty which stated LTTE’s goal of establishing a state for the Sri Lankan Tamils.[25][30]

In 1987, LTTE established the Black Tigers, a unit of LTTE responsible for conducting suicide attacks against political, economic and military targets,[31] and launched its first suicide attack against a Sri Lanka Army camp, killing 40 soldiers.

IPKF period

In 1987, faced with growing anger among its own Tamils, and a flood of refugees,[24] India intervened directly in the conflict for the first time by initially airdropping food parcels into Jaffna. After subsequent negotiations, India and Sri Lanka entered into the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord. Though the conflict was between the Tamil and Sinhalese people, India and Sri Lanka signed the peace accord instead of India influencing both parties to sign a peace accord among themselves. The peace accord assigned a certain degree of regional autonomy in the Tamil areas with Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) controlling the regional council and called for the Tamil militant groups to lay down their arms. India was to send a peacekeeping force, named the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF), part of the Indian Army, to Sri Lanka to enforce the disarmament and to watch over the regional council.[32][33]

Although the accord was signed between the governments of Sri Lanka and India, and the Tamil militant groups did not have a role in the agreement,[25] most Tamil militant groups accepted it.[34] But the LTTE rejected the accord because they opposed the candidate, who belonged to the EPRLF, for chief administrative officer of the merged Northern and Eastern provinces.[33] Instead, the LTTE named three other candidates for the position, which India rejected.[34] The LTTE subsequently refused to hand over their weapons to the IPKF.[25]

Thus LTTE found itself engaged in military conflict with the Indian Army, and launched its first attack on an Indian army rations truck on October 8, killing five Indian para-commandos who were on board by strapping burning tires around their necks.[35] The government of India decided that the IPKF should disarm the LTTE by force,[35] and the Indian Army launched number of assaults on the LTTE, including a month-long campaign dubbed Operation Pawan to win control of the Jaffna peninsula from the LTTE. The ruthlessness of this campaign, and the Indian army's subsequent anti-LTTE operations made it extremely unpopular among many Tamils in Sri Lanka.[36][37]

After IPKF

The Indian intervention was also unpopular among the Sinhalese majority, and the IPKF became bogged down in the fighting with the Tamil Tigers for over 2 years, experiencing heavy losses. The last members of the IPKF, which was estimated to have had a strength of well over 50,000 at its peak, left the country in 1990 upon request of the Sri Lankan government. A shaky peace initially held between the government and the LTTE, and peace talks progressed towards providing devolution for Tamils in the north and east of the country.[citation needed]

Fighting continued throughout the 1990s, and was marked by two key assassinations carried out by the LTTE, that of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, and Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa in 1993, using suicide bombers in both occasions. The fighting briefly halted in 1994 following the election of Chandrika Kumaratunga as President of Sri Lanka and the onset of peace talks, but fighting resumed after LTTE sunk two Sri Lanka Navy boats in April 1995.[38] In a series of military operations that followed, the Sri Lanka Army re-captured the Jaffna peninsula, the heartland of Tamils in Sri Lanka.[39] Further offensives followed over the next three years, and the military captured vast areas in the north of the country from the LTTE, including area in the Vanni region, the town of Kilinochchi and many smaller towns. However, from 1998 onward the LTTE hit back, regaining control of these areas. This culminated in the capture of the strategically important Elephant Pass base complex, located at the entrance of the Jaffna Peninsula, in April 2000, after prolonged fighting against the Sri Lanka Army.[40]

Mahattaya, a one-time deputy leader of LTTE, was accused of treason by the LTTE and killed in 1994.[41] He is said to have collaborated with the Indian Research and Analysis Wing to remove Prabhakaran from the LTTE leadership.[42]

2001 ceasefire

An LTTE bicycle infantry platoon north of Kilinochchi in 2004

In 2001, the LTTE dropped its demand for a separate state. Instead, it stated that a form of regional autonomy would meet its demands.[43] Following the landslide election defeat of Kumaratunga and the coming to power of Ranil Wickramasinghe in December 2001, the LTTE declared a unilateral ceasefire.[44] The Sri Lankan Government agreed to the ceasefire. In March 2002, both sides signed an official Ceasefire Agreement (CFA). As part of the agreement, Norway and the other Nordic countries agreed to jointly monitor the ceasefire through the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission.[45]

Six rounds of peace talks between the Government of Sri Lanka and LTTE were held, but they were temporarily suspended after the LTTE pulled out of the talks in 2003 claiming "certain critical issues relating to the ongoing peace process".[46][47]

In 2003, the LTTE proposed an Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA). This move was welcomed by the international community, but rejected by the Sri Lankan President.[48]

In December 2005, the LTTE boycotted the 2005 presidential election. While LTTE claimed that the people under its control were free to vote, it is alleged that they used threats to prevent the population from voting. The United States condemned this act.[49][50]

The new government of Sri Lanka came into power in 2006 and demanded to abrogate the ceasefire agreement, stating that the only possible solution to the ethnic conflict was military solution, and that the only way to achieve this is by eliminating the Liberation Tigers of Tamila.[51] Further peace talks were scheduled in Oslo, Norway, on June 8 and 9, 2006, but canceled when the LTTE refused to meet directly with the government delegation, stating its fighters were not being allowed safe passage to travel to the talks. Norwegian mediator Erik Solheim told journalists that the LTTE should take direct responsibility for the collapse of the talks.[52]

Rifts grew between the government and LTTE, and resulted in a number of ceasefire agreement violations by both sides during 2006. Suicide attacks,[53] military skirmishes and air raids took place during the latter part of 2006.[54][55] Military confrontation continued into 2007 and 2008. On January 2008, the government officially pulled out of the Cease Fire Agreement.[56]


In the biggest show of dissent from within the organization, a senior LTTE commander named Colonel Karuna (nom de guerre of Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan) broke away from the LTTE in March 2004 and formed the TamilEela Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal amid allegations that the northern commanders were overlooking the needs of the eastern Tamils. The LTTE leadership accused him of mishandling of funds and questioned him about his recent personal behavior. He tried to take control of the eastern province from the LTTE, which caused clashes between the LTTE and TEMVP. The LTTE has suggested that TEMVP was backed by the government,[57] and the Nordic SLMM monitors have corroborated this.[58]

Military defeat

On January 2, 2009, the President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, announced that the Sri Lankan troops had captured Kilinochchi, the city which the LTTE had used for over a decade as its de facto administrative capital.[59][60][61] It was stated that the loss of Kilinochchi had caused a substantial dent in the LTTE's image.[60] It was also stated that after the fall of Kilinochchi the LTTE was likely to collapse soon under unbearable military pressure on multiple fronts.[62] As of January 8, 2009, the LTTE was abandoning its positions on the Jaffna peninsula to make a last stand in the jungles of Mullaitivu, their last main base.[63] The entire Jaffna peninsula was captured by the Sri Lanka Army by January 14.[64] On January 25, 2009 SLA troops "completely captured" Mullaitivu town, the last major LTTE stronghold.[65] As a result of the offensive, there is increasing belief that the final military defeat of the LTTE is near, although the LTTE may launch an underground guerrilla campaign if it is defeated as a conventional force.[66][67]

Top LTTE leader Cheliyan, the second-in-command of the Sea Tigers, was killed in Kariyamullivaikkal on May 8, 2009 dealing another blow to the organization.[68] The Sri Lanka Government accused the LTTE of causing a human disaster by trapping civilians in the shrinking area under their control.[69] With LTTE on brink of defeat the fate of the leader of LTTE Velupillai Prabhakaran remained uncertain.[70] On May 12, 2009 BBC reported that LTTE was now clinging on to only about 840 acres of land near town of Mullaitivu which is roughly the same area as Central Park of New York.[71]

U.N secretary General Ban Ki Moon appealed on LTTE that children should not be held hostage, recruited as child soldiers or put in harm's way.[72] Claude Heller of United Nations Security Council said 'We demand that the LTTE immediately lay down arms, renounce terrorism, allow a UN-assisted evacuation of the remaining civilians in the conflict area, and join the political process.' The council president, speaking on behalf of the 15 members, also said they 'strongly condemned the LTTE, a terrorist organisation, for the use of civilians as human shields and for not allowing them to leave the area'.[73] On May 13, 2009 the UN security council condemned the rebel LTTE again and denounced its use of civilians as human shields and urged them to acknowledge the legitimate right of the government of Sri Lanka to combat terrorism by laying down their arms and allowing the tens of thousands of civilians to leave the conflict zone.[74] On May 14, 2009 The United Nations acting representative for Sri Lanka, Amin Awad, said that 6,000 civilians had fled or were trying to flee, but that LTTE was firing on them to prevent them from escaping.[75]

President Mahinda Rajapaksa declared military victory over the Tamil Tigers on May 16, 2009 after 26 years of conflict.[76] On the same day for the first time in their long struggle against the Sri Lankan government, the rebels were offering to lay down their weapons in return for a guarantee of safety.[77] Sri Lanka's disaster relief and human-rights minister Mahinda Samarasinghe stated 'The military phase is over. The LTTE has been militarily defeated. Now the biggest hostage rescue operation in the world has come to a conclusion, The figure I have here is since 20th of April, 179,000 hostages have been rescued.'[78]

On May 17, 2009, rebel official Selvarasa Pathmanathan conceded defeat saying in an email statement "This battle has reached its bitter end". Several rebel fighters committed suicide when they became surrounded.[79] On May 18, it was confirmed that the rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran had been killed along with several other high ranking Tamil officials. State run television interrupted its regular programming and a government information department sent a text message to cell phones across the country with the news.

Links to other designated terrorist organizations

As early as the mid-1970s, LTTE rebels were widely known to have trained members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in Southern Lebanon, where concepts of suicide bombings, taxation, and war memorials were imparted to PFLP fighters.[80] After the 1990 assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, Indian government officials claimed to have discovered a covert link between the PLO and the LTTE: the PLO had plead for Mr. Gandhi to accept a proposal from the LTTE. This advice raised eyebrows at the time, but was largely ignored until his assassination shortly thereafter.[80]

As late as 1998, the Tigers clearly stated:

... the LTTE has resolved to work in solidarity with the world national liberation movements, socialist states, and international working class parties. We uphold an anti-imperialist policy and therefore we pledge our militant solidarity against western imperialism, neo-colonialists, Zionism, racism and other forces of reaction.[80]

The Westminster Journal further states:

Intelligence agencies are well aware that the LTTE was involved in the 1990s in training the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) both of which are closely linked to al-Qaeda. In 1995 and 1998, an LTTE combat tactician and an LTTE explosives expert accompanying groups of al-Qaeda Arabs was recorded training members of MILF. In 1999, an LTTE combat tactician accompanying a group of al-Qaeda Arabs was recorded training members of the ASG. At the apparent behest of al-Qaeda, the LTTE is recorded training members of Al Ummah (An Islamic terrorist group formed in India in 1992, believed to be responsible for bombings in southern India in 1998) in Tamil Nadu, India.[80]

The Times of India, in a 2001 article, highlights an alleged nexus between al-Qaeda and the LTTE, and claims that "[al-Qaeda links with the LTTE] are the first instance of an Islamist group collaborating with an essentially secular outfit".[81] Additionally, the US-based research organisation "Maritime Intelligence Group" said the Indonesian group Jemaah Islamiya, which has known links to al-Qaeda, had been trained in sea-borne guerrilla tactics by LTTE Sea Tiger veterans.[80]

"Norwegians Against Terrorism", a one-man band led by convicted murderer Falk Rune Rovik,[82][83] further described how the Tamil community in Norway, at the behest of the LTTE, sold fake and stolen Norwegian passports to al-Qaeda members.[80] The LTTE itself acquired a fake passport for Ramzi Yousef, convicted mastermind of the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center in New York.[80]

A Council on Foreign Affairs article by Preeti Bhattacharji stated, "the secular nationalist LTTE currently has no operational connection with al-Qaeda, its radical Islamist affiliates, or other terrorist groups,"[84] but "In its early days, experts say the LTTE did train with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The group may still interact with other terrorist organizations through illegal arms markets in Myanmar, Thailand, and Cambodia."[85]

LTTE tactics in other terrorist organizations

Some of LTTE's attacks in Sri Lanka have similarities to attacks by, other proscribed groups. Some examples are:

  • The similarities between previous LTTE attacks against Sri Lanka Navy ships and the al-Qaeda attack on the USS Cole which killed 17 US Navy sailors.[86] The incident has raised suspicions of connections between the two groups. The "Maritime Intelligence Group" based in Washington DC claims to have unearthed substantial evidence that the LTTE trained Indonesian Islamists in the technique of maritime suicide bombings. The group, linked to al-Qaeda, is believed to have then passed the technique it learned from the LTTE to al-Qaeda itself.[80]
  • The website "South Asian Terrorism Portal" claimed that the LTTE provided forged passports to Ramzi Yousef, who was one of the planners of the first attack against the World Trade Center in New York in 1993.[87] The allegation has been backed by the Westminster Journal as well.[80]
  • The website "South Asian Terrorism Portal" also states that there are increasing intelligence reports that the LTTE was smuggling arms to various terrorist organizations, including Islamic groups in Pakistan and their counterparts in the Philippines,[87] using their covert smuggling networks. The London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies found that LTTE was building commercial links with al-Qaeda and other militants in Afghanistan, and that several cadres were spotted in Afghan militant camps.[80][88][89]
  • Falk Rovik, a convicted murderer,[83] accused the LTTE of stealing Norwegian passports and selling them to al-Qaeda in Algeria to earn money to buy weapons. He further alleged that funds from Government of Norway had been inadvertently diverted to the LTTE.[90][91]
  • India's National Security Adviser, M K Narayanan, alleges that LTTE raises money by smuggling narcotics. A recent arrest of LTTE operatives in Colombia corroborates this claim.[80]
  • According to an "anti-LTTE" website, Glen Jenvey, a former employee of the government of Sri Lanka and a specialist on international terrorism, claimed that al-Qaeda has copied most of its terror tactics from the LTTE[92] He highlighted the LTTE as the mastermind that sets the pattern for organizations like al-Qaeda to pursue. The Maritime Intelligence Group in Washington DC even states that al-Qaeda learned the tactic through LTTE contacts teaching Indonesians the methods.[93]
  • According to Asian Tribune, attacks on civilians in buses and trains in Sri Lanka were copied in the attack on public civilian transport during July 2005 bombings in London.[92]
  • The LTTE's ethnic cleansing campaigns against Muslims in northern Sri Lanka from 1985 to 1992 provided the inspiration for, and model by which, Kashmiri separatists would evict Hindus from Kashmir in late 1989–1990.[80]


The LTTE has been condemned by various groups for assassination of political and military opponents. The victims include Tamil moderates who coordinated with Sri Lanka Government, Tamil paramilitary groups assisting Sri Lankan Army. The assassination of Ranasinghe Premadasa, who was the head of Sri Lanka, is attributed to LTTE.

LTTE sympathizers justify some of the assassinations by arguing that the people attacked were combatants or persons closely associated with Sri Lankan military intelligence. Specifically in relation to the TELO, the LTTE has said that it had to perform preemptive self-defence because the TELO was in effect functioning as a proxy for India.[94]

Human rights violations

The United States Department of State states that its reason for banning LTTE as a proscribed terrorist group is based on allegations that LTTE does not respect human rights and that it does not adhere to the standards of conduct expected of a resistance movement or what might be called "freedom fighters".[95][96][97][98] The FBI has described the LTTE as "amongst the most dangerous and deadly extremist outfits in the world".[99] Other countries have also proscribed LTTE under the same rationale. Numerous countries and international organizations have accused the LTTE of attacking civilians and recruiting children.[100]

Attacks on civilians

The LTTE has launched attacks on civilian targets several times. Notable attacks include the Aranthalawa Massacre,[101] Anuradhapura massacre,[102] Kattankudy mosque massacre,[103] the Kebithigollewa massacre[104] and the Dehiwala train bombing.[105] Civilians have also been killed in attacks on economic targets, such as the Central Bank bombing.[105][106]

Child soldiers

The LTTE has been accused of recruiting and using child soldiers to fight against Sri Lankan government forces.[107][108][109] The LTTE was accused of having up to 5,794 child soldiers in its ranks since 2001.[110][111]

Amid international pressure, the LTTE announced in July 2003 that it would stop conscripting child soldiers, but both UNICEF[112][113] and Human Rights Watch[114] have accused it of reneging on its promises, and of conscripting Tamil children orphaned by the tsunami.[115] However, since 2007, the LTTE has claimed that it will release all of the recruits under the age of 18 before the end of the year. On 18 June 2007, the LTTE released 135 children under 18. UNICEF, along with the United States, states that there has been a significant drop in LTTE recruitment of children, but claims that 506 child recruits remain under the LTTE.[116] A report released by the LTTE's Child Protection Authority (CPA) in 2008 reported that less than 40 soldiers under age 18 remained in its forces.[117] However in 2009 a Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations said the Tamil Tigers "continue to recruit children to fight on the frontlines", and "use force to keep many civilians, including children, in harms way".[118]

The LTTE argues that instances of child recruitment occurred mostly in the east, under the purview of former LTTE regional commander Colonel Karuna. After leaving the LTTE and forming the TMVP, it is alleged that Karuna continued to forcibly kidnap and induct child soldiers.[119][120] Its official position is that earlier, some of its cadres erroneously recruited volunteers in their late teens.[citation needed]

Suicide bombings

The LTTE pioneered the use of concealed suicide bomb vests.[121] According to Jane's Information Group, between 1980 and 2000, the LTTE carried out 168 suicide attacks causing heavy damage on economic and military targets.[100]

Many of these attacks have involved military objectives in the north and east of the country, although civilians have been targeted on numerous occasions, including during a high profile attack on Colombo's International Airport in 2001 that caused damage to several commercial airliners and military jets, and killed 16 people.[122] The LTTE was also responsible for a 1998 attack on the Buddhist shrine, and UNESCO world heritage site, Sri Dalada Maligawa in Kandy that killed 8 worshipers. The attack was symbolic in that the shrine, which houses a sacred tooth of the Buddha, is the holiest Buddhist shrine in Sri Lanka.[123] Other Buddhist shrines have been attacked, notably the Sambuddhaloka Temple in Colombo that killed 9 worshipers.[124]

Relatively speaking, there have been fewer operations in the south where most of the Sinhalese live, including the capital Colombo, although such attacks have often engaged high-profile targets and attracted much international publicity as a result.[125]

The LTTE's Black Tigers has been attributed with the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, who was killed in 1991 using a prototype suicide vest, and Ranasinghe Premadasa, assassinated in 1993.[100]

Ethnic cleansing

The LTTE is responsible for forcibly removing, or "ethnically cleansing",[126][127] Sinhalese and Muslim inhabitants from areas under its control, and using violence against those who refuse to leave. The evictions happened in the north in 1990, and the east in 1992. Tamil sources openly state:

Islam, however, is not being practiced presently [In Tamil Eelam], as the Muslims have been asked to leave the Tamil Eelam territory until the independence of Tamil Eelam. The Muslims supported the aggressive Sri Lankan Sinhala and Muslim Military against the freedom of Tamil Eelam.[128]

Ironically, however, Muslim and Tamil communities in the North of Sri Lanka had participated together in the early days of the Tamil movement, and Muslim ironmongers in Mannar fashioned weapons for the LTTE, and local Tamil leaders were disturbed at the LTTE’s call for the eviction of Muslims.[129] However, as Tamil intellectuals began viewing Muslims as outsiders, rather than a part of the Tamil nation as they had been referred to previously, the LTTE undertook its anti-Muslim campaigns.

In its 1976 Vaddukodai Resolution, LTTE condemns the Sri Lankan government for, as it claimed, "unleashing successive bouts of communal violence on both the Tamils and Muslims."[130] In 2005, the "International Federation of Tamils" claimed that the Sri Lankan military purposefully stoked tensions between Tamils and Muslims, in an attempt to undermine Tamil security.[131] As Tamils turned to the LTTE for support, the Muslims were left with the Sri Lankan state as their sole defender, and so in the eyes of the LTTE, the Muslims had legitimized the role of the state, and were thus viewed as Sri Lankans.[131]

Beginning in 1985, the LTTE forcibly occupied 35,000 acres of Muslim-owned farmland in the north of Sri Lanka, before systematically evicting the Muslims from areas under LTTE control.[132]

Although anti-Muslim pogroms had occurred in the north and east of Sri Lanka since 1985, the LTTE embarked on a campaign to expel Muslims from the North in 1989. The first eviction notice was sent to the Muslims of Chavakacheri on October 15, 1989, after the LTTE entered the local mosque and threatened Muslims a few weeks earlier.[129] Afterward, the houses of evicted Muslims were ransacked and looted.[129] On October 28, 1989, the Muslims of Mannar, in the North of Sri Lanka, were told,

"All Muslims living in Mannar island should leave by 28 October. Before leaving, they must seek permission and clearance at the LTTE Office. The LTTE will decide their exit route."[129]

The deadline was extended by four days after pleas from local Tamil Catholics, who were left to look after many Muslims' property in anticipation of looting by the Sri Lankan army – although the Catholics themselves were later robbed by the LTTE of both their own, and the Muslims’ property.[129] On the 28th, while Muslims were preparing to leave, the LTTE barred Hindus from entering Muslim villages and dealing with them. The areas were reopened on the November 3, after Muslims had been packed onto the boats of Muslim fishermen and sent southwards along the coast.[129]

After a lull in ethnic cleansing, the LTTE on August 3, 1990, sealed off a Shiite mosque in Kattankady, the Meera Jumma and Husseinia, and opened fire through the mosque's windows, leaving 147 Muslim worshipers dead, out of 300 gathered for Friday prayers.[133] Fifteen days later, LTTE gunmen shot dead between 122 and 173 Muslim civilians in the town of Eravur[133][134]

Ethnic cleansing culminated on October 30, 1990 when the LTTE forcibly expelled the entire Muslim population of Jaffna. LTTE commanders from the east announced at 7:30 A.M. that all Muslims in Jaffna were to report to Osmania stadium, where they were to be addressed by two LTTE leaders, Karikalana and Anjaneyar.[129] After listening to the leaders denigrate Muslims for allegedly attacking Tamils in the east, the leaders explained to the community that they had two hours to evacuate the city.[135] The community was released from the stadium at 10 A.M., and by noon, and were only allowed to carry 500 rupees, while the rest of their possessions were seized by the LTTE after they were forced to report to LTTE checkpoints upon exiting Jaffna.[129]

In total, over 12,700 Muslim families, roughly 75,000 people, were forcibly evicted from LTTE-controlled areas on the Northern Province.[136]

In 1992, the LTTE embarked on a campaign to create a contiguous Tamil Hindu-Christian homeland that stretched from the North of Sri Lanka, and downwards along the Eastern Coast. A large Tamil-speaking Muslim population inhabited a narrow strip of land between the two entities, and so a pattern of "ethnic cleansing" emerged in Eastern Sri Lanka, as was already done in the North. "The LTTE unleashed violence against the Muslims of Alinchipothanai and killed 69 Muslim villagers. This led to a retaliatory violence against the Tamils in Muthugala, where 49 Tamils were killed allegedly by the Muslim Home guards."[137] Later in the year, the LTTE attacked four Muslim villages (Palliyagodalla, Akbarpuram, Ahmedpuram and Pangurana) and killed 187 Muslims.[137] The Australian Muslim Times later commented on 30 October 1992: “The massacres, eviction and the atrocities by the Tamil Tigers are carried out in order to derive the Muslim Community from their traditional land in the Eastern province as they have done it in the northern province and then set up a separate state only for Tamils”.[137]

In 2002, the LTTE leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran had formally apologized for the expulsion of Muslims from the north and asked the Muslims to return. Some families have returned and re-opened the Osmaniya College and two mosques are functioning now.[citation needed] Since the apology, TamilNet, which is widely seen as an LTTE mouthpiece, has featured numerous stories of Muslim civilians coming under attack from Sinhalese forces. However, the stories may simply reflect crime, and not the ethnic hatred that TamilNet suggest.[138]

During the summer of 1990, the LTTE killed over 370 Muslims in the North and East of Sri Lanka in 11 mass killings[137] The LTTE is also accused of organizing massacres of Sinhala villagers who settled in the Northeast under the dry lands policy.[139][140][141]

Proscription as a terrorist group

32 countries have listed the LTTE as a terrorist organization.[142][143] As of January 2009, these include:

The first country to ban the LTTE was its early ally, India. The Indian change of policy came gradually, starting with the IPKF-LTTE conflict, and culminating with the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. India opposes the new state Tamil Eelam that LTTE wants to establish, saying that it would lead to Tamil Nadu's separation from India though the leaders of Tamil Nadu are opposing it. Sri Lanka itself lifted the ban on the LTTE before signing the ceasefire agreement in 2002. This was a prerequisite set by the LTTE for the signing of the agreement.[154][155]

According to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, "LTTE has perfected the use of suicide bombers, invented the suicide belt, pioneered the use of women in suicide attacks, murdered some 4,000 people in the past two years alone, and assassinated two world leaders—the only terrorist organization to do so.[156]"

The European Union banned LTTE as a terrorist organization on May 17, 2006. In a statement, the European Parliament said that the LTTE did not represent all the Tamils and called on it to "allow for political pluralism and alternate democratic voices in the northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka".[157]

Criminal activities

One factor that has greatly benefited the LTTE has been its sophisticated international support network. While some of the funding obtained by the LTTE is from legitimate fund raising and extortion among Tamil diaspora,[158][159] a significant portion is obtained through criminal activities, involving sea piracy, human smuggling, drug trafficking and gunrunning.[160][161][162][163]

Sea piracy

The LTTE has been accused of hijacking several vessels and ships in waters outside Sri Lanka, including the Irish Mona (in August 1995), Princess Wave (in August 1996), Athena (in May 1997), Misen (in July 1997), Morong Bong (in July 1997), MV Cordiality (in September 1997), Princess Kash (in August 1998) and MV Farah III (December 2006). The MV Sik Yang, a 2,818-ton Malaysian-flag cargo ship which sailed from Tuticorin, India on May 25, 1999 was reported missing in waters near Sri Lanka. The ship with a cargo of bagged salt was due at the Malaysian port of Malacca on May 31. The fate of the ship's crew of 15 is unknown. It is suspected that the vessel was hijacked by the LTTE and is now being used as a phantom vessel. Likewise the crew of a Jordanian ship, MV Farah III, that ran aground near LTTE-controlled territory off the island's coast, accused the Tamil Tigers of risking their lives and forcing them to abandon the vessel which was carrying 14,000 tonnes of Indian rice.[164]

Arms smuggling

The anti-rebel Mackenzie Institute claimed that one of LTTE's secretive international operations is the smuggling of weapons, explosives, and "dual use" technologies. The part of the LTTE responsible for these activities is nicknamed "KP Branch", taking the initials of its high level operative, Kumaran Padmanathan. The workers for the KP Branch are from outside the fighting wing of the LTTE, since the identities of those fighters are recorded and available to law enforcement and counter-intelligence agencies by India's Research and Analysis Wing, who had helped train many Tiger cadres in the early 1980s. The KP Branch operates secretively by having the minimum connection possible with the LTTE's other sections for further security. It hands over the arms shipments to a team of Sea Tigers to deliver them to the LTTE-dominated areas.[165]

The Mackenzie Institute further claimed that in order to carry out the activities of international arms trafficking, the LTTE operates its own fleet of ocean-going vessels. These vessels only operate a certain period of time for the LTTE and in the remaining time they transport legitimate goods and raise hard cash for the purchase of weapons. The LTTE initially operated a shipping base in Myanmar, but was forced to leave due to diplomatic pressure. To overcome this loss, a new base has been set up on Phuket Island, in Thailand.[165]

Furthermore, The Mackenzie Institute claimed that the most expertly executed operation of the KP Branch was the theft of 32,400 rounds of 81 mm mortar ammunition purchased from Tanzania destined for the Sri Lanka Army. Being aware of the purchase of 35,000 mortar bombs, the LTTE made a bid to the manufacturer through a numbered company and arranged a vessel of their own to pick up the load. Once the bombs were loaded into the ship, the LTTE changed the name and registration of their ship. The vessel was taken to Tiger-held territory in Sri Lanka's north instead of transporting it to its intended destination.[165]

Western countries are the main territory for fund raising activities of the LTTE. The money raised from donations and enterprises are transferred into bank accounts of the Tigers and from there to the accounts of a weapons broker, or the money is taken by KP operatives themselves. LTTE's need for resources is mostly fulfilled by the Tamils who reside outside Sri Lanka. In 1995, when the LTTE lost Jaffna, its international operatives were ordered to increase, by 50%, the amount raised from Tamils outside the island.[165]

See also


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Further reading

External links

Tamil sites

Sri Lanka Government sites

International Organizations

International Press

Simple English

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is a guerilla organisation. They are fighting against the Government of Sri Lanka for an independent Tamil state in Sri Lanka called Tamil Eelam. LTTE are also known as the Tamil Tigers. The group was started in 1972 by Velupillai Prabhakaran who was killed in battle against Sri Lanka's forces on May 18, 2009[1], Prabhakaran's body was cremated, government did not want people to gather around his grave.


  1. Farrell, Tom (May 21, 2009). "Single-minded Tamil Tigers leader lived and died by the gun" (in English). Obituaries (The Age): pp. 12. 


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