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Tamil Tigers

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), also known as the Tamil Tigers or the Ellalan Force, is a Tamil guerrilla organization founded in 1976, one of many guerrilla organisations that sought to establish an independent state for Lankan Tamils, to be called Tamil Eelam, in the north-east of Sri Lanka.

Their leader is Velupillai Prabakharan. The LTTE absorbed or eliminated most of the people from the other organisations over the twenty year independence struggle, and has generally pursued an all-out approach to war, including terrorist activities and suicide bombings as well as successful conventional engagements. LTTE is proscribed as a terrorist organization by several countries including USA, Britain, India, Australia and Malaysia. They are also widely recognised as the entity the government must make peace with if it is to have peace with the Tamils.

Current status

The LTTE control sections of the north and east of the island, especially outside of major cities. Since late 2001 there has been a cease fire, and the LTTE has given up the call for a separate state, seeking political and economic autonomy for Tamils within a one-state solution. Talks on an interim solution are on hold until political uncertainty between the two main parties leaves it clear with whom the LTTE is to negotiate.

Some accuse the LTTE of using the ceasefire to build up its forces. The LTTE also continues to be accused of abducting school children and killing political rivals. Others worry that the LTTE, government and some others are too focused on the money poised to come in from northern countries as peace unfolds.

India's Involvement

The LTTE's early years of struggle reportedly enjoyed considerable sympathy from the Indian government, especially in the state of Tamil Nadu where there was sympathy for the discrimination against Sri Lankan Tamils by the majority Sinhalese. It is widely believed that India provided the LTTE and other Tamil guerilla groups with monetary and training support.

With increased violence on Indian soil (including some gruesome crimes ascribed to runaway militants), the organization lost some popular support. In 1987, under the request of the Sri Lankan president Premadasa, the Indian Peacekeeping Force was sent as peacekeepers of a tenuously agreement for a cessation of hostilities. Some arms were turned in, but trust was never high on either side and fighting continued. There were allegations of human rights abuse during this period against whom for what?, and the Indian forces were met with stiff opposition. Casualties mounted and eventually India pulled out its troops when the Sri Lankan government asked it to do so. Support from India dropped more noticeably in 1991, after the assassination of recently ex-Prime Minister of India) Rajiv Gandhi, by a woman presumed to be an LTTE suicide bomber.

See Ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka

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