Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
Ltte emblem.jpg
The official emblem of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam as designed by Rishi Suresh.
Dates of operation May 5, 1976 – present
Leader Velupillai Prabhakaran
Motives The creation of a separate Tamil state in the north and east of Sri Lanka
Active region(s) United Kingdom United Kingdom, Canada Canada, United States United States European Union European Union, and others[1]
Ideology Tamil nationalism
Notable attacks Central Bank bombing, Palliyagodella massacre, Dehiwala train bombing and Rajiv Gandhi Assassination
Status Inactive. Militarily defeated in May 2009.[2] Proscribed as a terrorist organization by 32 countries.
Annual revenue $200-300 million USD, prior to the military defeat.[3][4]
Means of revenue Donations from expatriate Tamils, Extortion,[5] Shipping, Sales of weapons, Taxes under LTTE controlled areas.

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 militant organization formerly based in northern Sri Lanka. Founded in May 1976 by Vellupillai Prabhakaran, it waged a violent secessionist and nationalist campaign to create an independent state in the north and east of Sri Lanka for Tamil People.[6] This campaign evolved into the Sri Lankan Civil War, which ran from 1983 until 2009, when the LTTE was defeated by the Sri Lankan Military.[7][8]

At the height of their power, the Tigers possessed a well-developed militia and carried out many high-profile attacks, including the assassinations of several high-ranking Sri Lankan and Indian politicians. LTTE is the only terrorist organization to assassinate two world leaders, Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa in 1993 and former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991.[9] Civilian massacres, suicide bombings and acts of ethnic cleansing[10][11] were integral parts of its pursuit to create a monoethnic Tamil Eelam.[12] The Tigers pioneered the use of suicide belts,[9] and used light aircraft in some of their attacks.[13] As a result of their tactics, they are currently proscribed as a terrorist organization by 32 countries (see list of countries), but have extensive support amongst the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora in Europe and North America, and amongst some Tamils in India.[14][14] However, Human Rights Organizations such as UTHR (Jaffna) alleges that Tamil Tigers have killed at least 8000 fellow Tamils considered to be traitors to their cause.[15] LTTE founder Velupillai Prabhakaran headed the organization from its inception until his death in 2009.[16]

Over the course of the conflict, the Tamil Tigers frequently exchanged control of territory in north-east Sri Lanka with the Sri Lankan military, with the two sides engaging in fierce military confrontations. They were involved in four unsuccessful rounds of peace talks with the Sri Lankan government over the course of the conflict. LTTE was in control of 76% of the landmass in Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka, at its peak in 2000.[17] At the start of the final round of peace talks in 2002, Tamil Tigers, with control of 15,000 km2 area, running a virtual mini-state. 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 16 May 2009,[18] and the LTTE admitted defeat on 17 May 2009.[19] Sangarapillai was killed by government forces on 19 May 2009. Selvarasa Pathmanathan attempted to succeed Prabhakaran as leader of the Tamil Tigers, but he was arrested in Malaysia and handed over to the Sri Lankan government in August 2009.[20]




In 1971, United Front government of Sirimavo Bandaranaike introduced the Policy of standardization to rectify disparities created in university enrollment in Sri Lanka under colonial rule. Tamil Manavar Peravai (Tamil Students League) was formed by Sathyaseelan[21] in the same year to counter this move.[22] This group comprised Tamil youth who advocated an armed insurrection against the government. Inspired by the failed 1971 insurrection of Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, it was the first Tamil insurgent group.[23] There were around 40 Tamil youth in the group at that time including Ponnuthurai Sivakumaran (leader of the Sivakumaran group), K. Pathmanaba (one of the founder members of EROS) and Velupillai Prabhakaran, who was an 18 years old youth from single caste oriented Valvettithurai (VVT).[24] In 1972, Prabhakaran teamed up with Chetti Thanabalasingam, a well known criminal from Kalviyankadu, Jaffna to form the Tamil New Tigers (TNT).[25] Thanabalasingham was its leader. After he was killed, Prabhakaran took over.[26] At the same time, Nadarajah Thangathurai and Selvarajah Yogachandran (better known by his nom de guerre Kuttimani) were also involved in discussions about an insurgency.[27] They would later (in 1979) create a separate organization named Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO) to campaign for the establishment of an independent Tamil Eelam. These groups, along with another prominent figure of the armed struggle, Ponnuthurai Sivakumaran, were involved in several hit-and-run operations against pro-government Tamil politicians, Sri Lanka Police and civil administration during early 1970s. These operations include throwing bombs at the residence and the car of SLFP Jaffna Mayor, Alfred Duraiyappah at least 3 times, placing a bomb at a carnival organized by him in the stadium of Jaffna city (now "Duraiyappah stadium") and Neervely bank robbery. 1974 Tamil conference incident also sparked the anger of these militant groups. Both Sivakumaran and Prabhakaran attempted to assassinate Duraiyappah in revenge for the incident. Sivakumaran committed suicide on 5 June 1974 in order to evade capture by Police.[28] But on 27 July 1975, Prabhakaran was able to assassinate Duraiyappah, who was branded as a "traitor" by TULF and the insurgents. Prabhakaran himself shot and killed the Mayor when he was visiting the Krishnan temple at Ponnalai.[25][29] The ideology of the Tamil Tigers emerged from Marxist-Leninist thought, and was secular. Its leadership was atheist.[30][31][32]

Founding and rise to power

The LTTE was founded on 5 May 1976, by Prabhakaran, as the successor to the Tamil New Tigers. Prabhakaran sought to "refashion the old TNT/new LTTE into an elite, ruthlessly efficient, and highly professional fighting force",[29] 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".[33] The LTTE carried out low-key attacks against various government targets, including policemen and local politicians.

TULF support

TULF leader Appapillai Amirthalingam, who was in 1977 elected as the Opposition leader of Sri Lanka Parliament clandestinely supported the LTTE. Amirthalingam believed that if he could exercise control over the Tamil insurgent groups, it would enhance his political position and pressurize government to agree to his demand, which was to grant political autonomy to Tamils. Thus, he even provided letters of reference to the LTTE and to other Tamil insurgent groups to raise funds. Prominent youth wing members of TULF, Secretary of Tamil Youth Forum, Colombo brach and ex-surveyor Uma Maheswaran, joined the LTTE as its chairman, and Urmila Kandiah, as its first female member in 1977.[25] Amirthalingam introduced Prabhakaran to N.S. Krishnan, who later became the first international representative of LTTE. It was Krishnan, who introduced Prabhakaran to Anton Balasingham, who later became the chief political strategist and chief negotiator of LTTE. LTTE was split for the first time in 1979. Uma Maheswaran was found out having a love affair with Urmila Kandiah. It was against the code of conduct of LTTE. Prabhakaran ordered him to leave the organization.[34] Uma Maheswaran left LTTE and formed People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) in 1980.

Meanwhile in 1980, J. R. Jayawardene government agreed to devolve power by the means of District Development Councils upon the request of TULF. But by this time, LTTE and other insurgent groups were not ready to accept any solution less than a separate state. LTTE had no faith in any sort of political solution. Thus the TULF and other Tamil political parties were steadily marginalised and insurgent groups emerged as the major force in North. During this period of time several other insurgent groups came into the arena, such as EROS (1975), TELO (1979), PLOTE (1980), EPRLF (1980) and TELA (1982). LTTE ordered civilians to boycott the local government elections of 1983 in which even TULF contested. Voter turnout became as low as 10%. Thereafter, Tamil political parties had very little room to represent Tamil people as insurgent groups took over their position.[25]

Thirunelveli attack, 1983

LTTE leaders at Sirumalai camp, India in 1984 while they are being trained by RAW (from R to L, weapon each one carrying is included in brackets) - Chief of Intelligence Pottu Amman (M 16), Mannar commander Victor (M203), Trincomalee commander Pulendran (AK-47), LTTE founder-leader Prabhakaran (pistol), Batticaloa commander Aruna (Berreta SMG), and Prabhakaran's bodyguard Lingam (Hungarian AK).

The LTTE carried out its first major attack on 23 July 1983, when they ambushed Sri Lanka Army patrol Four Four Bravo at Thirunelveli, Jaffna. Thirteen Sri Lankan servicemen were killed in the attack, leading to the Black July rampage against the Tamil community of Sri Lanka. Many outraged Tamil youths joining Tamil militant groups to fight the Sri Lankan government, in what is considered as the start of the insurgency in Sri Lanka.[35]

Indian support

Due to various geo-political reasons (see Indian intervention in the Sri Lankan Civil War), from August 1983 to May 1987, India, through its intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), provided arms, training and monetary support to 6 Sri Lankan Tamil militant groups including LTTE. During that period, 32 camps were set up all over India to train these militants.[36] 495 LTTE militants, including 90 women were trained in 10 batches.[37] First batch of Tigers were trained in Establishment 22 based in Chakrata, Uttarakhand. Second batch including LTTE intelligence chief Pottu Amman[38] was trained in Himachal Pradesh. Prabakaran himself visited the first and the second batch of Tamil Tigers to see them training.[39] 8 other batches of LTTE were trained in Tamil Nadu. Ironically, Thenmozhi Rajaratnam alias Dhanu, who carried out the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi and Sivarasan - the key conspirator were among the militants trained by RAW, in Nainital, India.[40]

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).[41]

Clashes with other insurgent groups

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, the LTTE broke from the ENLF in 1986. Soon fighting broke out between the TELO and the LTTE and clashes occurred over the next few months.[42][43] As a result almost the entire TELO leadership and at least 400 TELO militants were killed by the LTTE.[44][45][46] The LTTE attacked training camps of the EPRLF a few months later, forcing it to withdraw entirely from the Jaffna peninsula.[41][44] The LTTE then demanded that all remaining Tamil insurgents join the LTTE. Notices were issued to that effect in Jaffna and in Madras, 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.[44]

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 members taking an oath of loyalty which stated LTTE’s goal of establishing a state for the Sri Lankan Tamils.[42][47] In 1987 LTTE established the Black Tigers, a unit responsible for conducting suicide attacks against political, economic, and military targets,[48] and launched its first suicide attack against a Sri Lanka Army camp, killing 40 soldiers. LTTE members are prohibited from smoking cigarettes and consuming alcohol in any form. LTTE members must avoid their family members and avoid communication with them. Initially LTTE members were prohobited from having love affairs or sexual relationships as it could deter their prime motive. But this policy had changed since Prabhakaran married Mathivathani Erambu in October 1984.[34]

IPKF period

In July 1987, faced with growing anger among its own Tamils and a flood of refugees,[41] India intervened directly in the conflict for the first time by initially airdropping food parcels into Jaffna. After 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.[49][50]

War against IPKF

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,[42] most Tamil militant groups accepted it.[51] The LTTE rejected the accord because they opposed the candidate for chief administrative officer of the merged Northern and Eastern provinces because he was a member of the EPRLF.[50] The LTTE named three alternate candidates for the position, which India rejected.[51] The LTTE subsequently refused to hand over their weapons to the IPKF.[42] After 3 months of tensions, LTTE declared war on IPKF on 7 October 1987.[52]

Thus LTTE found itself engaged in military conflict with the Indian Army, and launched its first attack on an Indian army rations truck on 8 October, killing five Indian para-commandos who were on board by strapping burning tires around their necks.[53] The government of India decided that the IPKF should disarm the LTTE by force.[53] 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. The ruthlessness of this campaign, and the Indian army's subsequent anti-LTTE operations, made it extremely unpopular among many Tamils in Sri Lanka.[54][55]

Premadasa government support

The Indian intervention was also unpopular among the Sinhalese majority. Prime Minister Ranasinghe Premadasa during his presidential election campaign in 1988, pledged to withdraw IPKF as soon as he is elected president. After being elected, in April 1989, he started negotiations with LTTE. President Premadasa ordered Sri Lanka Army to clandestine handed over arms consignments to the LTTE to fight the IPKF and its proxy Tamil National Army (TNA). These consignments include RPG guns, motars, self loading rifles, T81 automatic rifles, T56 automatic rifles, pistols, hand grenades, ammunition and communications sets.[56] Moreover, millions of dollars was also passed on to the LTTE.[57]

After IPKF

IPKF became bogged down in the fighting with the Tamil Tigers for nearly three years, experiencing heavy losses. The last members of the IPKF, which was estimated to have had a strength of well over 100,000 at its peak, left the country in March 1990 upon the request of President Premadasa. 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. Ceasefire held between LTTE and the government from June 1989 to June 1990, broke down as LTTE massacred 600 Police officers in the Eastern Province.[58]

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.[59] In a series of military operations that followed, the Sri Lanka Army re-captured the Jaffna peninsula.[60] 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. From 1998 onward the LTTE regained control of these areas. This culminated in the capture in April 2000 of the strategically important Elephant Pass base complex, located at the entrance of the Jaffna Peninsula, after prolonged fighting against the Sri Lanka Army.[61]

Mahattaya, a one-time deputy leader of LTTE, was accused of treason by the LTTE and killed in 1994.[62] He is said to have collaborated with the Indian Research and Analysis Wing to remove Prabhakaran from the LTTE leadership.[63]

2002 ceasefire

An LTTE bicycle infantry platoon north of Kilinochchi in 2004

In 2001, the LTTE dropped its demand for a separate state. Instead, it demanded a form of regional autonomy.[64] Following the landslide election defeat of Kumaratunga and the coming to power of Ranil Wickramasinghe in December 2001, the LTTE declared a unilateral ceasefire.[65] The Sri Lankan Government agreed to the ceasefire, and in March 2002 the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) was signed. As part of the agreement, Norway and other Nordic countries agreed to jointly monitor the ceasefire through the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission.[66]

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".[67][68] 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.[69] The LTTE boycotted the presidential election in December 2005. 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.[70][71]

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 a military solution, and that the only way to achieve this was by eliminating the Liberation Tigers of Tamil.[72] Further peace talks were scheduled in Oslo, Norway, on 8 and 9 June 2006, but cancelled 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.[73] Rifts grew between the government and LTTE, and resulted in a number of ceasefire agreement violations by both sides during 2006. Suicide attacks,[74] military skirmishes, and air raids took place during the latter part of 2006.[75][76] Between February 2002 to May 2007, Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission documented 3,830 ceasefire violations by the LTTE, with respect to 351 by the security forces.[77] Military confrontation continued into 2007 and 2008. On January 2008 the government officially pulled out of the Cease Fire Agreement.[78]


In the biggest show of dissent from within the organisation, 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 (later Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal), amid allegations that the northern commanders were overlooking the needs of the eastern Tamils. The LTTE leadership accused him of mishandling funds and questioned him about his recent personal behaviour. He tried to take control of the eastern province from the LTTE, which caused clashes between the LTTE and TMVP. The LTTE has suggested that TMVP was backed by the government,[79] and the Nordic SLMM monitors corroborated this.[80]

Military defeat

Mahinda Rajapaksa was elected as the president of Sri Lanka in 2005. After a brief period of negotiations, LTTE pulled out of peace talks indefinitely.[81] Spordiac violence had continued and on 25 April 2006, LTTE tried to assassinate Sri Lanka Army Commander, Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka.[82] Following the attack, the European Union decided to proscribe the LTTE as a terrorist organisation.[83] A new crisis leading to the first large-scale fighting since signing of the ceasefire occurred when the LTTE closed the sluice gates of the Mavil Oya (Mavil Aru) reservoir on July 21 and cut the water supply to 15,000 villages in government controlled areas.[84] This dispute was developed into a full scale war by August 2006.

Defeat in East

Eelam War IV had commenced in the East. Mavil Aru fell into the hands of Sri Lanka Army by 15 August 2006. Systematically, Sampoor, Vakarai, Kanjikudichchi Aru and Batticaloa also fell into the hands of military. Finally military captured Thoppigala - the Tiger stronghold in Eastern Province on 11 July 2007. Even IPKF had failed to capture it from LTTE during its offensive in 1988.[85]

Defeat in North

Sporadic fighting in the North had been going on for months, but the intensity of the clashes increased after September 2007. Gradually, defense lines of LTTE began to fall. Advancing military confined LTTE into an fast diminishing areas in North. Prabhakaran was seriously injured during air strikes carried out by the Sri Lanka Air Force on a bunker complex in Jayanthinagar on November 26, 2007.[86] Earlier, on November 2, 2007, S. P. Thamilselvan, who was the head of the rebels' political wing, was killed during another government air raid.[87] On January 2, 2008, the Sri Lankan government officially abandoned the ceasefire agreement. By August 2, 2008, LTTE lost the entire Mannar District following the fall of Vellankulam town. Troops captured Pooneryn and Mankulam during the final months of 2008.

On 2 January 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.[88][89][90] On the same day, President Rajapaksa called upon LTTE to lay down arms and surrender.[77] It was stated that the loss of Kilinochchi had caused a substantial dent in the LTTE's image,[89] and that the LTTE was likely to collapse under military pressure on multiple fronts.[91] As of 8 January 2009, the LTTE abandoned its positions on the Jaffna peninsula to make a last stand in the jungles of Mullaitivu, their last main base.[92] The entire Jaffna peninsula was captured by the Sri Lanka Army by 14 January.[93] On 25 January 2009, SLA troops "completely captured" Mullaitivu town, the last major LTTE stronghold.[94]

The Sri Lankan Government accused the LTTE of causing a human disaster by trapping civilians in the shrinking area under their control.[95] With the LTTE on the brink of defeat, the fate of their leader Velupillai Prabhakaran remained uncertain.[96] On 12 May 2009, the BBC reported that the LTTE was now clinging to 840 acres (3.4 km2) of land near the town of Mullaitivu, which is roughly the same area as New York City's Central Park.[97] UN secretary General Ban Ki Moon appealed to the LTTE that children should not be held hostage, recruited as child soldiers, or put in harm's way.[98] 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, 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'.[99] On 13 May 2009, the UN security council condemned the LTTE, 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.[100] On 14 May 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.[101]

President Mahinda Rajapaksa declared military victory over the Tamil Tigers on 16 May 2009, after 26 years of conflict.[102] The rebels offered to lay down their weapons in return for a guarantee of safety.[103] 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 20 April 179,000 hostages have been rescued.'[104] On 17 May 2009, LTTE head of "Department of International Relations", Selvarasa Pathmanathan conceded defeat, saying in an email statement "This battle has reached its bitter end". Several LTTE fighters committed suicide when they became surrounded.[105]


With the end of the hostilities, 11,664 LTTE members, including 595 child soldiers surrendered to the Sri Lankan military.[106] Approximately 150 hardcore LTTE cadres and 1000 middle level cadres escaped to India.[107] Government took action to rehabilitate the surrendered cadres under a "National Action Plan for the Re-integration of Ex-combatants". They were divided into 3 categores; hardcore, non-combatants, and those who were forcefully recruited (including child soldiers). 24 rehabilitation centres were set up in Jaffna, Batticaloa and Vavuniya. Among the apprehended carders, there had been about 700 hardcore members. Some of these cadres were integrated into State Intelligence Services to tackle the internal and external networks of LTTE.[108] By August 2011, government had released more than 8,000 cadres, and 2,879 remained.[109]

Continued operations

After the demise of LTTE leader Prabhakaran and the entire top brass of the organization, Selvarasa Pathmanathan alias KP was its sole first generation leader left alive. KP assumed duty as the new leader of LTTE on 21 July 2009. A statement was issued, allegedly from the Executive Committee of the LTTE, stating that Pathmanathan had been appointed leader of the LTTE.[110] But 15 days after the announcement, on 5 August 2009, a Sri Lankan military intelligence unit, with the collaboration of local authorities, captured Pathmanathan in the Tune Hotel, Downtown Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.[111] LTTE leader of Norway, Perinpanayagam Sivaparan alias Nediyavan, Global Tamil Forum President Father S. J. Emmanuel and New York based lawyer Visvanathan Rudrakumaran are allegedly trying to revive the organization among the Tamil diaspora.[1][3][112] Subsequently in May 2011, Nediyavan, who advocates an armed struggle against Sri Lankan state, was arrested and released on bail in Norway, pending further investigation.[113]


LTTE women's wing marching in a parade.

Two major divisions of the LTTE were, the military wing and the political wing. Military wing consisted of at least 11 separate divisions including the conventional fighting forces, Charles Anthony Brigade[114] and Jeyanthan Brigade;[115] the dreaded suicide wing called the Black Tigers; naval wing Sea Tigers, air-wing Air Tigers, LTTE leader Prabhakaran's personal security divisions, Imran Pandian regiment and Ratha regiment;[116] auxiliary military units such as Kittu artillery brigade, Kutti Sri mortar brigade, Ponnamman mining unit and hit-and-run squads like Pistol gang. Charles Anthony brigade was the first conventional fighting formation created by LTTE. Sea Tiger division was founded in 1984, under the leadership of Thillaiyampalam Sivanesan alias Soosai. LTTE acquired its first light aircraft in late 1990s. Vaithilingam Sornalingam alias Shankar was instrumental in creating the Air Tigers.[117][118] It carried out 9 air attacks since 2007, including one last suicide air raid targeting Sri Lanka Air Force headquarters, Colombo in February 2009. LTTE is the only terrorist-proscribed organization to acquie aircrafts. LTTE intelligence wing consisted of Tiger Organization Security Intelligence Service aka TOSIS, run by Pottu Amman, and a separate military intelligence division.

Aircraft in LTTE possession[77]
Type of Aircraft Quantity
Micro Light Aircraft 2
ZLIN 143 5
Helicopters 2
Unmanned aerial vehicles 2

Although LTTE was never serious about a political solution,[119] it operated a systematic and powerful political wing, which functioned like a separate state in the LTTE controlled area. In 1989, it established a political party named People's Front of Liberation Tigers, under Gopalaswamy Mahendraraja alias Mahattaya. It was abandoned soon after. Later, S. P. Thamilselvan was appointed the head of the political wing. He was a member of the LTTE delegation for Norwegian brokered peace talks too. After the death of Thamilselvan in November 2007, Balasingham Nadesan was appointed as its leader.[120] Major sections within the political wing include International peace secretariat, led by Pulidevan, LTTE Police, LTTE court, Eelam bank, Sports division and "Voice of Tigers" Radio broadcasting station of LTTE.

LTTE is also known for the use of female cadres for military engagements. Its women's' wing consisted of Malathi and Sothiya Brogades. Besides, LTTE controlled a powerful international wing. "KP branch", controlled by Selvarasa Pathmanathan, "Castro branch", controlled by Veerakathy Manivannam alias Castro and "Aiyannah group" led by Ponniah Anandaraja alias Aiyannah, comprised the international wing.

Global network

LTTE had developed a massive international network since the days of N.S. Krishnan, who served as its first international representative. In late 1970s, TULF parliamentarian and opposition leader A. Amirthalingam provided letters of reference for fundraising, and V. N. Navaratnam, who was an executive committee member of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), introduced many influential and wealthy Tamils living overseas to Tamil insurgent leaders.[25] Navaratnam also introduced LTTE members to the members of Polisario Front, a national liberation movement in Morocco, at a meeting held in Oslo, Norway.[25] In 1978, during the world tour of Amirthalingam (with London based Eelam activist S. K. Vaikundavasan), he formed the World Tamil Coordinating Committee (WTCC), which later turned out to be an LTTE front organization.[121] The global contacts of LTTE grew steadily since then. At the height of its power, LTTE had 42 offices all over the world. The global network of LTTE is functional in 4 major areas.[39] They are,

  • Propaganda
  • Fund raising
  • Arms procurement
  • Shipping

There were 3 types of organizations to do propaganda and fund raising, i.e. Front, Cover and Sympathetic. Prior to the ethnic riots of 1983, attempts to raise funds for a sustaining military campaign were not realised. It was the mass exodus of Tamil civilians to India and western countries following Black July ethnic riots, which made it possible. As the armed conflict evolved and voluntary donations dwindled, LTTE used force and threats to collect money.[122][123] LTTE was worth US$ 200-300 million at its peak.[3][4] The group's global network owned numerous business ventures in various countries. These include investment in real estate, shipping, grocery stores, gold and jewellery stores, gas stations, restaurants, production of films, mass media organizations (TV, radio, print), industries, etc. It was also in control of numerous charitable organizations including Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation, which was banned and funds were frozen by United States Treasury in 2007 for covertly financing terrorism.[124]

Arms Procurement and shipping activities of LTTE were largely clandestine. Prior to 1983, it procured weapons mainly from Afghanistan via the Indo-Pakistani border. Explosives were purchased from commercial markets in India. From 1983 to 1987, LTTE acquired subsantial amount of weapons from RAW[dubious ] and from Lebanon, Cyprus, Singapore and Malaysia based arms dealers. LTTE received its first consignment of arms from Singapore in 1984 on board MV Cholan, the first ship owned by the organization. Funds were received and cargo was cleared at Chennai Port with the assistance of M. G. Ramachandran, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.[125] In November 1994, LTTE was able to purchase whopping 60 tonnes of explosives (50 tonnes of TNT and 10 tonnes of RDX) from Rubezone Chemical plant in Ukraine, providing a forged Bangladeshi Ministry of Defense end-user certificate.[126] Payments for the explosives were made from a Citibank account in Singapore held by Selvarasa Pathmanathan. Consignment was transported on board MV Sewne. Same explosives were used for the Central Bank bombing in 1996. Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia and Indonesia remained the most trusted outposts of LTTE, after India alienated it after the Rajiv Gandhi assassination.

Sea Tigers freighter sunk by Sri Lankan Air Force in Mullaitivu sea.

Since late 1997, North Korea became the principal country to provide arms, ammunition and explosives to the LTTE. The deal with North Korean government was carried out by Ponniah Anandaraja alias Aiyannah, a member of World Tamil Coordinating Committee of USA and later, the accountant of LTTE.[39] He worked at the North Korean embassy in Bangkok since late 1997. LTTE had nearly 20 second-hand ships,[127] which were purchased in Japan, and registered in Panama and other Latin American countries. Most of the times, these ships transported general cargo, including paddy, sugar, timber, glass and fertilizer. But when an arms deal was finalised, they travelled to North Korea, load the cargo and brought it to the equator. Then the ships are based there. Then on board merchant tankers, weapons were transferred to the sea of Alampil, just outside the territorial waters in Sri Lanka's Exclusive Economic Zone. After that, small teams of Sea Tigers brought the cargo ashore. Sri Lanka Navy, during 2005-08 destroyed at least 11 of these cargo ships belonged to LTTE in the international waters.[128][129]

LTTE's last shipment of weapons came in March 2009, towards the end of the war. Merchant vessel "Princess Iswari" went from Indonesia to North Korea under captain Kamalraj Kandasamy alias Vinod, loaded the weapons and it came back to international waters beyond Sri Lanka. But due to the heavy naval bockades set up by Sri Lanka Navy, it could not deliver the arms consignment. Thus it dumped the weapons in the sea. The same ship, after changing its name to MV Ocean Lady, appeared in Vancouver with 76 migrants, in October 2009.[130] In December 2009, Sri Lanka Navy apprehended a merchant vessel belonged to LTTE, "Princess Chrisanta" in Indonesia and brought it back to Sri Lanka.[131]

LTTE had a special relationship with Eritrea in the latter stages of Sri Lankan civil war. United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations (USSFRC) and Ethiopian based Jimma Times[132] claimed that Eritrean government had provided direct military assistance, including light aircrafts to LTTE.[133] This relationship was developed during the 2002-03 period, when it was having negotiations with Sri Lankan government via the Norwegian mediators.[134] It has been alleged that Erik Solheim, the chief Norwegian facilitator, helped LTTE to establish this relationship.[135] Sri Lankan armed forces have been concerned that Prabhakaran may try to flee to Eritrea, in the final stages of war.[136]

Links to other designated terrorist organizations

LTTE is believed to have no extensive military association with al-Qaeda or other Islamic terrorist groups.[137][138] However, LTTE had stolen Norwegian passports and sold them to Al Queda affiliates including Ramzi Yousef, who was one of the main perpetrators of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and a co-conspirator in the Bojinka plot.[139] The group had interactions with other terrorist organizations through illegal arms markets in Myanmar, Thailand, and Cambodia.[140] It had also smuggled weapons from Pakistan-based Islamists to their counterparts in the Philippines.[141] During the mid-1970s, LTTE rebels were known to have trained from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in Southern Lebanon.

LTTE also had connections with Maoist Naxalite movement, which is fighting to establish a Marxist Indian state, and Khalistan movement, which is fighting to create a separate Sikh state in India. LTTE's shipping fleet has provided logistics support to Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, a Pakistani group with al-Qaeda affiliations, to transport a consignment of weapons to the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in the Philippines. They also maintain close contact with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). LTTE had also sent two combat tacticians and explosive experts to the southern Philippines to train members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.[142]

The Times of India, in 2001, highlighted an alleged nexus between al-Qaeda and the LTTE, and claimed that "[al-Qaeda links with the LTTE] are the first instance of an Islamist group collaborating with an essentially secular outfit".[143] 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.

"Norwegians Against Terrorism" led by Falk Rune Rovik,[144][145] described how the Tamil community in Norway, at the behest of the LTTE, sold fake and stolen Norwegian passports to al-Qaeda members. The LTTE itself acquired a fake passport for Ramzi Yousef, convicted mastermind of the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center in New York. He further alleged that funds from Government of Norway had been inadvertently diverted to the LTTE.[146][147]

LTTE tactics followed by 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.[148] 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.[149]
  • 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.[150] The allegation has been backed by the Westminster Journal as well.

The website "South Asian Terrorism Portal" 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,[150] 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.[151][152]

  • 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.
  • 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.[153] He highlighted the LTTE as the mastermind that set the pattern for organisations like al-Qaeda.
  • 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.[153]

Proscription as a terrorist group

32 countries have listed the LTTE as a terrorist organization.[154][155] As of January 2009, these include:

The first country to ban the LTTE was its former 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.[165][166]

The European Union banned LTTE as a terrorist organization on 17 May 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".[83]


Political figures assassinated by LTTE[77]
Position/Status Number
President of Sri Lanka 1
Prime Minister of India 1
Presidential candidate 1
Leaders of political parties 10
Cabinet Ministers 7
Members of Parliament 37
Members of Provincial Councils 6
Members of Pradeshiya Sabha 22
Political Party Organisers 17
Mayors 4

The LTTE has been condemned by various groups for assassinating 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 the Sri Lankan president Ranasinghe Premadasa is attributed to LTTE. The seventh Prime Minister of the Republic of India, Rajiv Gandhi, was assassinated by an LTTE suicide bomber Thenmozhi Rajaratnam on 21 May 1991.[167] On 24 October 1994, LTTE detonated a bomb during a political rally in Thotalanga-Grandpass, which in turn wiped out most of the promonent politicians of the United National Party, including presidential candidate Gamini Dissanayake MP, Cabinet ministers Weerasinghe Mallimarachchi and G. M. Premachandra, Ossie Abeygunasekara MP and Gamini Wijesekara MP.[168][169]

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.[170]

Suicide bombings

LTTE suicide bomber detonates a bomb at a religious ceremony commemorating Mawlid, at Jumma Mosque, Akuressa, Sri Lanka on 10 March 2009. Minister of Petroleum and Petroleum Resources Development, A. H. M. Fowzie (in the middle) and Minister of Disaster Relief Services, Ali Ameer are depicted in this image. Minister of Posts & Telecommunications, Mahinda Wijesekara was critically injured by the attack which left 13 civilians killed.[171]

According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, LTTE was the first insurgent organization to use concealed explosive belts and vests.[172][173] The specialized unit that carried out suicide attacks was named the Black Tigers. According to the information published by the LTTE, the Black Tigers carried out 378 suicide attacks between 5 July 1987 and 20 November 2008.[77] Out of the deceased, 274 were male and 104 were female.

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.[174] The LTTE was responsible for a 1998 attack on the Buddhist shrine and UNESCO world heritage site Sri Dalada Maligawa in Kandy that killed eight 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.[175] Other Buddhist shrines have been attacked, notably the Sambuddhaloka Temple in Colombo that killed nine worshipers.[176]

Black Tiger wing had carried out attacks on various high-profile leaders both inside and outside Sri Lanka.[177] It had successfully targeted 3 world leaders, only insurgent group to do so. That includes assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, the former Prime Minister of India on 21 May 1991,[178][179] assassination of Ranasinghe Premadasa, the President of Sri Lanka on 1 May 1993[180] and failed assassination attempt of Chandrika Kumaratunga, the Sri Lankan President on 18 December 1999, which resulted in the loss of her right eye.[181][182][183]

The slain Black Tiger cadres were highly glorified and their families were given the "Maha Viru family" status. Those cadres were given a chance to have his/her last supper with the LTTE leader Prabhakaran, which was a rare honour one would get in the LTTE controlled area. This, in turn motivated LTTE cadres to join the Black Tiger wing.[184]

On 28 November 2007, an LTTE suicide bomber named Sujatha Vagawanam [24], in an attempt to kill Sri Lankan minister Douglas Devananda, detonated a bomb, hidden inside her brassiere.[185] This was recorded in the security cameras inside Devananda's office. It is the only occasion a suicide bomber detonating the bomb is recorded in a camera.[186] (video)

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".[187][188][189][190] The FBI has described the LTTE as "amongst the most dangerous and deadly extremist outfits in the world".[191] 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.[167]

Attacks on civilians

The LTTE has launched attacks on civilian targets several times. Notable attacks include the Aranthalawa Massacre,[192] Anuradhapura massacre,[193] Kattankudy mosque massacre,[194] the Kebithigollewa massacre,[195] and the Dehiwala train bombing.[196] Civilians have also been killed in attacks on economic targets, such as the Central Bank bombing.[196][197]

Women fighters

LTTE women’s involvement in the leadership and fighting forces of the group has given rise to fierce debates about whether the visibility of females in the LTTE fighting forces represented the ‘true’ liberation of the Tamil women and whether women would enjoy equal rights in the public during the post-conflict period. Actually, the Tamil Eelam is the overarching goal of the LTTE, and the emancipation of women has always been a secondary issue dependent on the liberation struggle. All the existing literature illustrates that the LTTE has been unsuccessful in creating the gender equality within the movement, and suggests that women have the right to achieve their emancipation and empowerment without linking to interests of the nationalist and ethnic struggles.[198][199][200]

Child soldiers

The LTTE has been accused of recruiting and using child soldiers to fight against Sri Lankan government forces.[201][202][203] The LTTE was accused of having up to 5,794 child soldiers in its ranks since 2001.[204][205] Amid international pressure, the LTTE announced in July 2003 that it would stop conscripting child soldiers, but both UNICEF[206][207] and Human Rights Watch[208] have accused it of reneging on its promises, and of conscripting Tamil children orphaned by the tsunami.[209] 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 claimed in 2007 that 506 child recruits remain under the LTTE.[210] A report released by the LTTE's Child Protection Authority (CPA) in 2008 stated that less than 40 soldiers under age 18 remained in its forces.[211] 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".[212]

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.[213][214]

Ethnic cleansing

The LTTE is responsible for forcibly removing, or ethnic cleansing,[215][216] of Sinhalese and Muslim inhabitants from areas under its control, and using violence against those who refuse to leave. The eviction of Muslim residents happened in the north in 1990, and the east in 1992. Main reason behind the expulsion of Muslims was the fact that local Muslim community did not support the Tamil Eelam struggle of LTTE.[217]

Howeverthe North of Sri Lanka participated the Tamil movement on several occasions. Muslim ironmongers in Mannar fashioned weapons for the LTTE. In its 1976 Vaddukodai Resolution, LTTE condemned the Sri Lankan government for "unleashing successive bouts of communal violence on both the Tamils and Muslims."[218] But later, LTTE undertook its anti-Muslim campaigns as it began to view Muslims as outsiders, rather than a part of the Tamil nation. Local Tamil leaders were disturbed by the LTTE’s call for the eviction of Muslims in 1970.[219] 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.[220] 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.[220]

Beginning in 1985, the LTTE forcibly occupied 35,000 acres (140 km2) of Muslim-owned farmland in the north of Sri Lanka, before systematically evicting the Muslims from areas under LTTE control.[221] 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 15 October 1989, after the LTTE entered the local mosque and threatened Muslims a few weeks earlier.[219] Afterward, the houses of evicted Muslims were ransacked and looted.[219] On 28 October 1989, the Muslims of Mannar were ordered to leave, by the LTTE. Before leaving, they had to seek permission and clearance at the LTTE office. LTTE was to decide their exit route."[219]

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. The Catholics themselves were later robbed by the LTTE of both their own, and the Muslims’ property.[219] 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 3 November, after Muslims had been packed onto the boats of Muslim fishermen and sent southwards along the coast.[219] After a lull in ethnic cleansing, the LTTE on 3 August 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.[222] Fifteen days later, LTTE gunmen shot dead between 122 and 173 Muslim civilians in the town of Eravur.[222][223]

Ethnic cleansing culminated on 30 October 1990 when the LTTE forcibly expelled the entire Muslim population of Jaffna. LTTE commanders from the east announced at 7:30 am that all Muslims in Jaffna were to report to Osmania stadium, where they were to be addressed by two LTTE leaders, Karikalana and Anjaneyar.[219] 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.[224] The community was released from the stadium at 10 am, 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.[219] In total, over 14,400 Muslim families, roughly 72,000 people, were forcibly evicted from LTTE-controlled areas of the Northern Province.[225] This includes 38,000 people from Mannar, 20,000 from Jaffna and Kilinochchi, 9,000 from Vavuniya and 5,000 from Mullaitivu.[226]

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. "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."[227] Later in the year, the LTTE attacked four Muslim villages (Palliyagodalla, Akbarpuram, Ahmedpuram, and Pangurana) and killed 187 Muslims.[227] The Australian Muslim Times 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.[227]

In 2002 LTTE leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran formally apologized for the expulsion of Muslims from the north and asked the Muslims to return. Some families returned and re-opened the Osmania College and two mosques in 2003. 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.[228] During the summer of 1990, the LTTE killed over 370 Muslims in the North and East of Sri Lanka in 11 mass killings[227] The LTTE is accused of organizing massacres of Sinhala villagers who settled in the Northeast under the dry lands policy.[229][230][231] Expulsion of civilians did not confine to Muslim community. Sri Lanka population census of 1981 recorded 19,334 Sinhala civilians in Jaffna District. But with the end of the war in 2009, hardly any Sinhala civilian remained in their places of origin in Jaffna.[77]

Execution of prisoners of war

LTTE had executed prisoners of war on a number of occasions, in spite of the declaration in 1988, that it would abide by the Geneva Conventions. Most important incident was the mass murder of unarmed 600 Sri Lankan Police officers in 1990, in Eastern Province, after they surrendered to the LTTE upon the request of President Ranasinghe Premadasa.[232] Police officers were promised safe conduct and subsequent release. But they were taken to the jungles, blindfolded, tied hands behind, made to lie down on the ground and shot.[233] In 1993, LTTE executed 200 Sri Lanka Army soldiers, captured in the naval base at Pooneryn, during the Battle of Pooneryn.[234]

War crimes

There are allegations that war crimes were committed by the Tamil Tigers during the Sri Lankan Civil War, particularly during the final months of the conflict in 2009. The alleged war crimes include attacks on civilians and civilian buildings; executions of combatants and prisoners; acute shortages of food, medicine, and clean water for civilians trapped in the war zone; and child recruitment.[235][236] A United Nations expert panel investigating violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the final stages of the civil war found "credible allegations" which, if proven, indicated that war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed by the Sri Lankan military and the Tamil Tigers.[237][238][239] The panel has called on the UN Secretary General to conduct an independent international inquiry into the alleged violations of international law.[240][241]

Other 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 fundraising, a significant portion is obtained through criminal activities, extortion among Tamil diaspora,[242][243] involving sea piracy, human trafficking, drug trafficking and gunrunning.[244][245][246][247]

Sea piracy
Jordanian vessel MV Farah III, hijacked and towed into Mullaitivu shores by LTTE in December 2006.

The LTTE has been accused of hijacking several vessels and ships in waters outside Sri Lanka, including Ocean Trader (in October 1994), 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), Newko (in July 1999), Uhana (in June 2000), Fuyuan Ya 225 (Chinese trawler, in March 2003), MV Farah III (in December 2006) and City of Liverpool (in January 2007). The MV Sik Yang, a 2,818-ton Malaysian-flag cargo ship which sailed from Tuticorin, India on 25 May 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 31 May. 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.[248]

Arms smuggling

The LTTE members operated a cargo company called "Otharad Cargo" in the United Arab Emirates. There are reports that the LTTE met Taliban members and discussed the "Sharjah network", which existed in the Sharjah emirate of the United Arab Emirates. The Sharjah network was used by Victor Bout, an arms-smuggling Russian intelligence agent, to provide Taleban with weapons deliveries and other flights between Sharjah and Kandahar. Otharad Cargo reportedly received several consignments of military hardware from the Sharjah network.[249][250]

The Mackenzie Institute claimed that LTTE's secretive international operations of the smuggling of weapons, explosives, and "dual use" technologies which is attributed to the "KP Branch", headed by Selvarasa Pathmanathan prior to 2002.[251] It also claims 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.[251] In 2002, Prabhakaran appointed Castro as the international chief of LTTE. He overtook the responsibilities of arms smuggling and related activities from Pathmanathan.

Human smuggling

Most of the smuggling of Tamil people to western countries was carried out by LTTE. It had largely benefited from this. The prices charged by LTTE to go to countries such as Canada was extremely higher than the normal cost to travel. In addition, money had to be paid to obtain "exit visa" to leave LTTE controlled areas.[252] After the war, LTTE's main business has been the human smuggling. A cost of LKR 4 million per immigrant was "enforced" by LTTE operatives.[253] LTTE's human smugglisg ships include MV Ocean Lady, appeared in October 2009, off Canada's British Columbia coast with 76 Tamil asylum seekers; MV Sun Sea, arrived in August 2010, off British Columbia, with 492 asylum seekers[254] and MV Alicia, carrying 80 illegal immigrants, which was intercepted by Indonesian authorities in July 2011, allegedyly heading towars Canada or New Zealand.[252]


LTTE had coreced Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora and Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka to give it money, by threatening the safety of their relatives or property in areas under its control.[255][256][257]

Money laundering

LTTE was involved in several money laundering cases in western countries. In January 2011, Swiss authorities arrested several LTTE members on money laundering.[258]

Passport forgery

In 1990, Canadian authorities uncovered a passport forgery scheme of LTTE.[259] In December 2010, Spanish and Thai police uncovered another passport forgery scheme attributed to LTTE.[259]

Drug trafficking

Number of intelligence agencies have accused that LTTE is involved in drug trafficking. In 2010, citing Royal Canadian Mounted Police sources, the Jane's Intelligence Review said the LTTE controls a portion of USD one billion drug market in the Canadian city of Montreal.[260] It also states, narcotics smuggling using its merchant ships, is one of the main ways of earning money out of its USD 300 million annual income. US Department of Justice states that LTTE has historically served as the drug couriers moving narcotics into Europe.[261] Indian authorities accused LTTE operatives used to bring narcotics to Mumbai from Mandsaur District of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab border. Then the drugs were transported to coastal towns in Tamil Nadu such as Tuticorin, Rameswaram, Ramanathapuram, Nagapattinam and Kochi.[262]

Credit card fraud

LTTE is also involved in credit card fraud, in United Kingdom. In 2010, STF arrested the mastermind behind this fraud, Neshanadan Muruganandan alias Anandan. LTTE had cloned credit cards using PIN and card numbers obtained from unsuspecting cards holders in the United Kingdom, and funds were transferred to their accounts later.[263][264] In 2007, Norwegian authorities sentenced 6 LTTE members for skimming more than 5.3 million Norwegian kroners in a similar credit card scam.[265]

See also


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Further reading

  • Gunaratna, Rohan (1998). Sri Lanka's Ethnic Crisis and National Security (1 ed.). South Asian Network on Conflict Research. ISBN 955-8093-00-9. 
  • Gunaratna, Rohan (1987). War and Peace in Sri Lanka: With a Post-Accord Report From Jaffna (1 ed.). Institute of Fundamental Studies. ISBN 978-955-2600-01-2. 
  • Balasingham, Anton (2004). War and Peace – Armed Struggle and Peace Efforts of Liberation Tigers (1 ed.). Fairmax Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-903679-05-2. 
  • Balasingham, Adele (2003). The Will to Freedom – An Inside View of Tamil Resistance (2 ed.). Fairmax Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-903679-03-6. 
  • Swamy, M.R. Narayan (2003). Inside an Elusive Mind Prabhakaran: The First Profile of the Worlds Most Ruthless Guerrilla Leader (1 ed.). Literate World, Inc.. ISBN 812-2006-57-5. 
  • Swamy, M.R. Narayan (2010). The Tiger Vanquished: LTTE's Story (1 ed.). Sage Publications Pvt. Ltd. ISBN 813-2104-59-9. 
  • Swamy, M.R. Narayan (2002). Tigers of Lanka: from Boys to Guerrillas (2 ed.). Konark Publishers. ISBN 812-2006-31-0. 
  • Mehta, Raj (2010). Lost Victory: The Rise & Fall of LTTE Supremo, V. Prabhakaran (1 ed.). Pentagon Press. ISBN 818-2744-43-1. 
  • de Votta, Neil. (2004) Blowback: Linguistic Nationalism, Institutional Decay, and Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka. Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-4924-8.
  • Gamage, Siri and I.B. Watson (Editors). (1999). Conflict and Community in Contemporary Sri Lanka – 'Pearl of the East' or 'Island of Tears'?. Sage Publications Ltd. ISBN 0-7619-9393-2.
  • Hansard Australia. (2006). Commonwealth of Australia Parliamentary Debates. Senate Transcript for 16 June 2006.
  • Hellmann-Rajanayagam, D. (1994). The Groups and the rise of Militant Secessions, in Manogaram, C. and Pfaffenberger, B. (editors). The Sri Lankan Tamils. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-8133-8845-7.
  • La, J. 2004. Forced remittances in Canada's Tamil enclaves, Peace Review 16:3. September 2004. pp. 379–385.
  • Narayan Swamy, M. R. (2002). Tigers of Lanka: from Boys to Guerrillas. Konark Publishers; 3rd ed. ISBN 81-220-0631-0.
  • Pratap, Anita. (2001). Island of Blood: Frontline Reports From Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Other South Asian Flashpoints. Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-302906-9.

External links

LTTE web sites
Sri Lanka Government
International organizations
International press

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