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The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam: Essential Points - Page 2

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The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam: Essential Points
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The war itself has gone through a number of phases. These include:

    * 1970-1976: Growing violence within Sri Lankan Tamil community: Internal militancy grew as young militants attacked high caste Tamil elites and federalist Tamil politicians while emerging Tamil 'national liberation' movements attempted to redirect violence towards Sinhalese.
    * 1976-1983: Classic Terrorist Group: The LTTE is created and established connections with Middle Eastern terrorist groups and Indian intelligence agencies. It worked to limit effects of liberalizing government policies and to destabilize local areas, encouraging repression by police and military to polarize Tamil society. Terrorist cells evolved into embryonic guerrilla forces. Base organization of Diaspora political front organizations and overseas organized crime by LTTE-related gangs first appeared in Europe.
    * 1983-1987: Classic Guerrilla Warfare: LTTE attacks provoked violent communal rioting by Sinhalese, hundreds of Tamils were killed and tens of thousands displaced inside Sri Lanka. LTTE guerrillas began to engage in conventional warfare with the Sri Lankan Army. The Tigers encouraged refugee emigration into Western Europe, Australia and Canada while using political fronts to tap them for support in their new countries. The Tigers began to destroy rival Tamil militant organizations and absorb other factions.
    * 1987-1990 Indian Imposed Peace Accords: The imposed settlement of the conflict resulted in extremely hostile opposition among Tamils and Sinhalese alike. The Sinhalese JVP initiated a second revolt against the government, which was suppressed with the loss of over 40,000 lives. The Tigers took on the Indian peacekeeping force and inflicted very heavy casualties. By 1990, India bailed out and the Sri Lankan civil war returned with full force.
    * 1990-2002 Nearly Continuous Civil War: Aside from a brief ceasefire in 1994/5; warfare continued, with first the Army and then the Tigers gaining the upper hand in fighting around key areas in the Island's north. The Tigers assassinated two national leaders -- India's Rajiv Gandhi and Sri Lanka's President Ranasinghe Premadasa -- and engaged in "ethnic cleansing" against Sinhalese and Muslims. They conducted frequent terrorist attacks elsewhere in Sri Lanka, and encouraged the growth of the Diaspora movement. During this time, the Tigers first resorted to maritime piracy; established their own shipping line and created a sophisticated administrative apparatus inside their controlled territories.
    * 2002-2008 The Attempted Peace Process: Twelve years of warfare in northern Sri Lanka had resulted in a deadlock, and in early 2002 a cease-fire agreement was signed by the LTTE and the government. However, both sides had fundamentally irreconcilable positions - Sri Lanka wanted to remain intact while LTTE demands inevitably led to a fractured state. By September 2004 the Tiger Fronts started to condition the Diaspora community for a return to the conflict and a series of incidents suggested the LTTE hoped to provoke a response from the Sri Lankan military. The 2004 Tsunami hit eastern Sri Lanka especially hard, probably delaying the return of the conflict but giving the Tigers new opportunities to raise money, stockpile supplies and recruit children. The Tigers also murdered hundreds of Tamil politicians from non-Tiger parties (particularly during the 2004 elections).
    * 2008-2009 Return to War: The Tigers were not alone in preparing for a return to hostilities and the LTTE's desire for a return to the conflict had estranged many former supporters inside Sri Lanka and the Diaspora. The Sri Lankan government went heavily into debt to finance an expanded military and acquire new capabilities. The 2004 defection of a senior LTTE leader - Colonel Karuna - had also enabled the Army to shift resources when the fighting resumed. The Sri Lankan military was able to concentrate in a series of offensives and inflicted enormous losses on the LTTE through late 2008 and into 2009.

After 25 years of more or less continuous guerrilla war, the Sri Lankan government finally tipped the balance. Employing new weapons and expensive new resources, the Army was able to drive the LTTE out of many areas and overran sanctuaries that the Tigers had controlled for years. In January 2009, after a series of battlefield defeats, the LTTE guerrilla force retreated into a tiny enclave (less than 30 square km) between two lagoons in northeastern Sri Lanka around the town of Puthukkudiyiruppu.

The Tigers pulled between 70,000 (Army estimate) and 200,000 (LTTE estimate) Tamil civilians into their enclave with them, and have been using them as human shields, a forced labour pool, and a last source of compelled conscripts and child soldiers. Two months later, the LTTE's situation had not changed, and the end of the guerrilla war is in sight. Taking your own people hostage, then pleading for their safety and welfare is unusual. Even at bay the Tigers remained innovative.
The Genocide Myth

Terrorist groups, aspiring revolutionaries and other kinds of insurgents usually like to present a simplistic and unambiguous narrative that justifies their behaviour. Like all simple stories, there have to be heroes and villains, and evil to be overcome it's not hard to imagine where those who construct such narratives like to place themselves.


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