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LTTE: Overview Founded and led by Velupillai Prabhakaran, the LTTE is a paramilitary organization that has waged a campaign since the 1970’s with the goal of creating a separate Tamil state in northern Sri Lanka. Known as the Tamil Tigers, the LTTE is notorious for introducing suicide bombers in general and female ones in particular. They have carried out more suicide attacks than Hamas, al Qaeda and Islamic Jihad combined. Members of the LTTE have donnedVelupillai Prabhakaran self-styled President and uniforms to directly battle the Sri Prime Minister of Tamil Eelam Lankan military - on land, sea and in the air.
LTTE Timeline1948: Sri Lanka, then known as Ceylon, gains independence from British rule. EthnicTamils feel disenfranchised by the so-called "Citizenship Act" which denied citizenship tothe Tamils and their descendents brought from India by the British to work on teaplantations1956: Solomon Bandaranyake, then prime minister, enacts a law making Sinhala theonly official language of Sri Lanka, alienating the Tamils. Peaceful protests by Tamils arebroken up by a Sinhala mob and riots follow.1957/65: Pacts are signed between the government and the Tamils giving them ameasure of regional autonomy and freedoms in language and education, but theagreements remain largely on paper.1970: New constitution enshrines earlier law making Sinhala Sri Lankas officiallanguage and makes Buddhism the countrys official religion, further alienating Tamilswho are mainly Hindus and Christians.1972: Ceylon becomes a Republic and is officially renamed the Republic of Sri Lanka.Velupillai Prabhakaran forms the Tamil New Tigers group to set up a separate homeland- the Tamil Eelam. Source: Al Jazeera http://english.aljazeera.net/focus/blanktemplate/2008/11/2008111061193133.html
LTTE Timeline1975: Tamil New Tigers re-named Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)1978: LTTE proscribed as an illegal organisation.1981: Riots in Jafna. A state of emergency is declared.1983: First guerrilla-style ambush by LTTE kills 13 soldiers. During “Black July”, Riotingerupts killing hundreds of people. About 150,000 Tamil refugees flee to India ,whereTamil military training camps are established.1987: The Indian government cracks down on armed Tamil groups in India.First suicideattack by LTTE kills 40. Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord signed and India agrees to deploypeacekeepers - the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF), which quickly gets drawn intothe civil war.1990: IPKF withdraws from Sri Lanka. LTTE becomes the prominent Tamil armed group.Over 100,000 Muslims are expelled from LTTE dominated areas, many with just twohours notice. Source: Al Jazeera http://english.aljazeera.net/focus/blanktemplate/2008/11/2008111061193133.html
LTTE Timeline1991: Rajiv Gandhi, then Indian prime minister, is assassinated by a female LTTEsuicide bomber.1993: Ranasinghe Premadasa, then president of Sri Lanka, is killed in a LTTE suicidebomb attack.1999: Chandrika Kumaratunge, a former prime minister and later the first femalepresident of Sri Lanka, is wounded in an assassination attempt during an election rally.2002: Norway-brokered ceasefire between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan governmentcomes into effect. It holds for five years despite many incursions from both sides. A roadlinking Jaffna peninsula and the rest of Sri Lanka opens after 12 years.2004: The LTTE splits. Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan, also known as Colonel Karuna,commander for the Batticaloa-Amparai, breaks from the LTTE forming a pro-governmentoutfit. Source: Al Jazeera http://english.aljazeera.net/focus/blanktemplate/2008/11/2008111061193133.html
LTTE Timeline2005: Sri Lankan government and LTTE sign Post-Tsunami Operational ManagementStructure (P-Toms) by which the two entities agreed to work together to offer relief tothe communities devastated by the Asian Tsunami. Lakshman Kadirgamar, Sri Lankanforeign minister, is assassinated by the LTTE.2007: After weeks of heavy fighting, the Sri Lankan army takes back the LTTE-heldtown of Vakarai. LTTE air force attacks various Sri Lankan targets including Colomboairport. SP Thamilselvan, leader of the LTTEs political wing, is killed in an air raid.2008: The Sri Lankan government formally withdraws from the ceasefire with the LTTEand renewed fighting erupts. Amid attacks and counter-attacks, Sri Lankan forces seemto gradually gain the upper hand.2009: The government claims its forces have captured the town of Kilinochchi, thepolitical hub of the Tamil Tigers and the the last rebel-town of Mullaittivu. RemainingLTTE fighters thought to be trapped in a small area in northeast of the island promptingmilitary claims that†the†war could end in days. Source: Al Jazeera http://english.aljazeera.net/focus/blanktemplate/2008/11/2008111061193133.html
Selected Leadership Velupillai Prabhakaran aka Thambi founded the “Tamil Tigers” in the 1970’s. Through Velupillai determination, perserverance and ruthlessness he Prabhakaran has made the LTTE the foremost group in the Tamil independence movement - mainly by eliminating rival organizations. He is methodical and patient, planning operations well in advance. Under his leadership, the LTTE has been involved in everything from bank robberies to prostitution to credit card fraud to suicide bombings. He sees himself as a role model to his followers, living a very ascetic lifestyle. He expects his comrades to follow his personal example in regards to smoking, alcohol, premarital sex and gambling, among other things. Death is often the penalty for those who do not. References: Interpol http://www.interpol.int/public/Data/Wanted/Notices/Data/1994/54/1994_9054.as Lanka Web“We are not politicians, we are freedom http://www.lankaweb.com/news/items07/250407-5.html fighters.” Eelam web http://www.eelamweb.com/leader/quotes/
Selected Leadership Pottu Amman Shanmugalingam Sivashankar aka Pottu Amman was the long-time head of the LTTE’s Intel wing and is still heavily involved with the group’s Black Tiger suicide squads. The Indian government has indicted him in conjunction with the assassination of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. He speaks English, Sinhalese and Tamil. Though born in Sri Lanka, he has received training in India (Tamil Nadu). He was once kidnapped by a rival Tamil group (Peoples Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam). He was freed via a prisoner exchange with the captured leader of the PLOTE. Source: Interpolhttp://www.interpol.int/Public/Data/Wanted/Notices/Data/1994/43/1994_9043.asp Additional reference: Frontline http://www.flonnet.com/fl1821/18210570.htm
Selected Leadership Colonel Soosai Colonel Soosai is the nom de guerre of Thillaiyampalam Sivanesan. Colonel Soosai was in charge of the naval wing of the LTTE, the Sea Tigers. Under his leadership, the Sea Tigers have engaged in numerous acts of piracy and have been able to mount successful attacks and sea denial operations against the Sri Lankan Navy. He is currently missing and believed by authorities to have been killed in an air attack by Sri Lankan forces in early February of 2009. Additional reference: Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) Source: Interpol http://www.sundaytimes.lk/090208/News/sundaytimesnews_05.htmhttp://www.interpol.int/public/Data/Wanted/Notices/Data/2006/76/2006_57476.asp
Selected Leadership (Opposition) Colonel Karuna Amman Colonel Karuna whose real name is Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan is the president and leader of the TMVP (Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal which translates to Tamil Peoples Liberation Tigers). A member of the LTTE since 1983, eventually rising to become the second most important leader of the organization, he parted ways with the LTTE in early 2004, taking many followers with him to form the TVMP. The two rival groups have since engaged in violent clashes and battles. Karuna has sought the Sri Lankan government’s protection against reprisals from the LTTE and in exchange, he has transformed his organization into a political party (which has won seats in local elections) with a paramilitary wing - that has aided in driving LTTE forces from parts of eastern Sri Lanka. Additional reference: BBC News http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7288942.stm Source: The Colombo Times &http://www.thecolombotimes.com/2008_04_01_archive.html http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/3537025.stm
LTTE: Operational Sub-UnitsThe LTTE has 3 main sub-divisions: 1) Military. 2) Political and 3) Fund Raising One of the only insurgent groups to Military have uniformed personnel capable of engaging government forces and the only one with an air force of any type. Allows for a soft-power option in Political their struggle for independence. The political wing is responsible for state- building, infrastructure and negotiations with governments. Operations are supported via Fund Raising legitimate fund raising efforts as well as illicit means. Everything from document theft/forgery, credit card fraud, extortion, prostitution, smuggling and theft.
Military: Conventional Forces The uniformed forces of the LTTE use a combination of conventional and unconventional tactics. Recruits are fanatically devoted to the cause and are issued cyanide tablets for use if captured. LTTE invented the suicide belt and pioneered the use of female suicide bombers. But they also use conventional weapons - everything from claymores to tanks to planes to armed speed boats. Their first conventional force was the Charles Anthony Brigade, established in the early 1990’s. Reference: Coucil on Foreign Relations http://www.cfr.org/publication/9242/
Sea Tigers: The LTTE Navy Suicide speedboats, merchant ships, divers/combat swimmers and even submarines (another “first” for the LTTE) are employed by the Sea Tigers. The Sea Tigers engage in boat- based suicide attacks, sabotage, piracy and smuggling operations. LTTE’s naval branch consists of over 2000 people with men and women serving in equal capacity. Source: Sri Lankan Ministry of Defense http://www.defence.lk/new.asp?fname=20090129_05
Air Tigers: The LTTE Air Force The Tamil Tigers have used fixed and rotary wing aircraft in both conventional bombing attacks and 9/11-style kamikaze runs. As such, the LTTE is considered the first non- state actor to have an air force. The LTTE air forces have attacked the Sri Lankan national tax headquarters as well as other targets in the capital of Columbo in addition to attacks on Sri Lankan air bases, army installations the navy base at Trincomalee Harbor and other targets. Authorities currently believe that all LTTE planes have been shot down, but the Sri Lankan government has been wrong about this in the past. Source: al Jazeera http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia/2007/03/2008525184856552419.html South Asia Analysis Group http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers14/paper1398.html
Black Tigers: Innovating Suicide The “special forces” of the LTTE, Black Tigers are selected from the regular ranks to undergo arduous, lengthy and specialized training. It is considered an honor to be selected as a Black Tiger. Tigers wear 3 dog tags (neck, wrist and waist) to ensure identification in the event of dismemberment. Black Tigers are highly disciplined and secular. To be selected, one must apply directly to LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. Considered to be the most effective unit of its kind in the world, the Black Tigers are more pragmatic than other suicide bombers. Their attacks are well planned andIndian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi (above left) was assassinated by have specific, tactical military objectives and are sometimessuicide bomber, Thenmozhi Rajaratnam (above right), in 1991. used in conjunction with conventional operationsFormer President & Prime Minsister of Sri Lanka, ChandrikaBandaranaike Kumaratunga (below) lost her right eye to a LTTEassassination attempt in December of 1999. Their first recorded operation was in 1987. In addition to the actions listed to the left, they have also been responsible for the death of a Sri Lankan President, the head of Sri Lanka’s air force, a national security minister and the destruction of most of the national airline’s planes. LTTE operations account for approx. 33% of ALL suicide attacks globally. In all, dozens of specific targets have fallen to the Black Tigers. See also: Photo Gallery of Black Tigers at http://ttnet.netfast.org/photos/black_tigers.html Time http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1193862,00.html/
Tigresses: Suthanthirap Paravaikal The women’s wing of the LTTE, the Suthanthirap Paravaikal or Freedom Birds, were formed in the mid-1980’s. The LTTE supports equal rights for women. Females are attracted to the Freedom Birds as a way of ending 3 types of oppression: Sinhalese sexism, Tamil chauvinism and sexist caste discrimination Female LTTE operations begin in 1987 and the number of Freedom Birds increased rapidly after 1990. The LTTE’s first female casualty was at the end of 1987 and over the years thousands of other Freedom Birds have died, including over 100 that became Black Tigers. Reference: Women and the Struggle for Tamil Eelam http://www.eelamweb.com/women/
Children: The Future is NOW! Why wait for the next generation of Tamil freedom fighters to come of age when they can be recruited while still children? The LTTE and related groups are infamous for the use of child soldiers. Although the LTTE currently claims to reject underage volunteers, Unicef says it has recorded 5,368 cases of reported child recruitment in Sri Lanka between 2002 and 2006. While some children simply lie about their age in order to join the cause, many are tricked into joining and others are kidnapped and forced to become soldiers. Others, orphaned by circumstance, such as 2004 Asian Tsunami or the Sri Lankan civil war itself, are taken in by the LTTE. Additional reference: BBC News http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4712318.stmReference: Human Rights Watch http://web.archive.org/web/20070516141422/http://www.hrw.org/reports/2004/childsoldiers0104/16.htm
Political Wing: Quasi-State? Prior to the Sri Lankan military’s territorial gains in early 2009, the LTTE operated the infrastructure of a functional, parallel quasi-state in the Northern and Eastern parts of Sri Lanka under its control. They operated banks and schools and assisted in providing health care to those living in their sphere of influence. The LTTE ran their own television and radio stations and collected taxes. Tigers provided or at least facilitated much of the 2004 Tsunami relief efforts in the areas they controlled. Not unlike the TVMP, the Tigers’ political wing became more active in the years since 2000, offering a less militant option for the Sri Lankan government to deal with. See also: Battle Progress Map (Sri Lankan Ministry of Defense) http://www.defence.lk/orbat/Default.asp Reference: Tamil Eelam Bank http://www.sangam.org/articles/view/?id=260
Funding: How’d They Pay For All That LTTE operations are funded both internally (by Tamils on the island of Sri Lanka) and exernally (the Tamil diaspora - LTTE branches in over 50 countries). For a time, the Tigers ran their own banks. But they also relied on funds generated through everything from bank robberies to prostitution to credit card fraud to extortion. Piracy - both the traditional kind practiced by the Sea Tigers and the modern, digital boot-leg variety - has been another income source. A great deal of money comes from charitable donations from Sri Lankans living abroad who believe in the cause as well as those Tigers who have to industrialized nations specifically to establish businesses (restaurants, grocery stores) to generate revenue to support the LTTE. Traditional investments (stocks, real estate), as well as involvement in, but not personal use of, narcotics andweapons smuggling play major roles as well. See also: Al Jazeera http://english.aljazeera.net/focus/2008/11/2008112019115851343.html Reference: National Post (Canada) http://ensign.ftlcomm.com/ensign2/pdfarchive/tamilsNationalpost.pdf
What’s Next: The Future of the LTTE As of late February 2009, the government of Sri Lanka has regained control of almost all territory previously held by the LTTE. In the wake of these territorial losses the LTTE released a statement saying that “the international community must do everything in its power to bring a ceasefire so that the miseries of the Tamils ... are brought to an end,” Sri Lankan government officials do not take such statements seriously and feel that they are only being made due to the LTTE being on the verge of being defeated militarily. It is the opinion of other analysts that, in the event of a conventional military defeat, the Tigers will return to the guerilla tactics of insurgency and fall back into the countryside. In such a scenario, the LTTE could would continue to receive external support from the Tamil diaspora. So long as Velupillai Prabhakaran remains alive to lead and inspire the Tamils to separatism, the LTTE will remain a threat to the unity and stability of not just Sri Lanka, but also of southern India and other areas with considerable Tamil populations.
What’s Next: The Future of the LTTE Even if Velupillai Prabhakaran were removed from the scene and more moderate people, such as Colonel Karuna Amman, who are willing to work with the Sri Lankan government through socio-political means were to gain prominence, it is unlikely that the conflict would be resolved soon. This is due to the numbers of LTTE members (especially the Black Tigers) that would be left and the dedication and devotion to the cause that they have demonstrated. It is possible that it would not be as difficult to sway the opinion of the LTTE’s supporters living in other countries, as they are not as directly involved in the struggle. - and living in mostly industrialized states where they do not face personal discrimination. In the end, it is up to the Sri Lankan government to remove the initial motivation for the LTTE’s existence in the first place. Having more universally inclusive policies in place and ending practices that could be perceived as being discriminatory towards Tamils would go a long way. At the same time, the Sri Lankan government cannot permit the blatant criminality of separatist, insurgent attacks. The need for maintaining order and stability must be tempered with justice and equality before the law before progress can be made with a new, future generation of more moderate Tamils.
Supplemental References Sri Lanka troops enter rebel town http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia/2009/02/200922410421649558.html The history of the Tamil Tigers http://english.aljazeera.net/focus/2008/11/2008112019115851343.html Q&A: Sri Lankas civil war http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia/2009/01/200912617918908981.html Tamil Tiger leader hurt in raid’ http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7153213.stm Pressure mounts on LTTE: Tell the truth now http://sundaytimes.lk/080127/Columns/sitreport.html Tamil Tigers Banned by the European Union http://news.softpedia.com/news/Tamil-Tigers-Banned-by-the-European-Union-25088.shtml LTTE killing civilians, UN says http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia/2009/02/200921620151665741.html Tamil Tigers ready for ceasefire’ http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia/2009/02/200922341351386686.html Chronology of Suicide Bomb Attacks by LTTE Tamil Tiger Terrorists in Sri Lankahttp://www.spur.asn.au/chronology_of_suicide_bomb_attacks_by_Tamil_Tigers_in_sri_Lanka.htm Ken talks to front for banned Tamil Tigershttp://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard-mayor/article-23479694-details/Ken+talks+to+front+for+banned+Ta