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The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam Case Study


Historical Background of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was a Northern Sri Lanka terrorist group that carried out militant operations not only in its own country but also in other states worldwide. The group was established in1976 by Tamil students. Velupillai Prabhakaran was the first commander of LTTE. The establishment of the militant group began as a student movement that fought for the rights of Tamil students to join Sri Lankan Universities.

Gradually, the students’ movement became violent. The group organized militant operations that led to fatalities and damage to property. Later, the students’ movement was divided into two terrorist groups, the Tamil New Tigers (TNT) and the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO). In 1976, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was formed to succeed the Tamil New Tigers. However, in 1983, LTTE began to conduct militant operations. The terrorist group headed violent campaigns against the government of Sri Lanka. This situation led to nationwide clashes between the Tamils and the Sinhalese.

The Sinhalese comprise the majority of the Sri Lankan population. The militant wanted to gain control over Sri Lanka to manage various political decisions that were made by the majority group. This essay provides an insight into the historical background of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, its ideologies, and sources of funding to its terrorist operations in Sri Lanka and various parts of the globe.

Ideology and Philosophy of LTTE

Pattanaik advances that LTTE ideologies and philosophies were based on Tamil’s nationalism (634). The Tamils formed the minority group, whereas the Sinhalese formed the majority group. The development of interethnic clashes due to varying political pressures amongst the two groups led to the formation of the militant group. The nature of politics of the majority group and the superiority of the Tamils raised the need for independence.

The Tamils felt persecuted by the Sinhalese population. This situation necessitated the need to possess their homeland. Primarily, the Tamils are Buddhists. As a result, their religion does not have much impact on state affairs as far as their philosophies and ideologies are concerned (Guribye 234). According to Chalk, the LTTE group was structure consisted of two major divisions that included the military wing and the subordinate political wing (14). Other smaller units that operated under this body included groups that were responsible for sea attacks, air attacks, suicide bombings, and intelligence gathering.

In addition, the organization of LTTE also composed of an external secretariat to manage the group’s external and worldwide networks. Willford and Nagarajan reveal that the LTTE was organized into several cadres that were highly disciplined, loyal to their leaders, and much dedicated to their work (77). Nonetheless, the authors posit that there was forcible recruitment of members to cadres with children taking part in the recruitment. The cadres consisted of men, women, and children (both boys and girls).

Moreover, LTTE has a well-structured program for training its fighters. All recruits, regardless of their gender and age, are supposed to undergo rigorous training. The training programs for children were different from the ones for adults. At times, children are trained in stages. The fighters are equipped with skills such as handling weapons, indoctrination, field, and battle craft, among others. Furthermore, the group has outstanding acquaintance with matters that pertain to intelligence gathering (Chalk 14).

Major Activities of the Militant Group that made it Dangerous to Homeland Security

According to Pattanaik, the LTTE has been accused of a couple of assassinations and alleged attacks on government officials (645). Two major assassinations that are believed to have been carried out by the group are the killing of the Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 and president Ranasinghe Premadasa of Sri Lanka in 1993. Investigators and intelligence groups have also linked several other assassinations of prominent people to the terrorist group.

The LTTE group has also been condemned for allegedly engaging in suicide bombing activities that target prominent persons as well as civilians. This organization pioneered the use of concealed explosive belts and vests. According to Ubayasiri, the attacks were organized both inside and outside the boundaries of Sri Lanka (81). Primarily, the targeted groups in the attacks were opponent military officials in the north and east parts of the country. Some of the attacks that were carried by the group included the attacks on the Colombo international airport in the year 2001 and other invasions on several Buddhist shrines whose target were worshippers.

Furthermore, the LTTE group is heavily involved in activities that violate human rights. Indeed, the organization has been listed as a notorious terrorist group by many countries (Pattanaik 642). Some of the activities include forcible recruitment of child soldiers, forcible ethnic cleansing, attacks on innocent civilians, execution of prisoners of war, and engineering of war crimes. In addition to the above inhuman activities, other criminal activities that the group is held responsible are sea piracy, kidnapping, smuggling of drugs, money laundering, passport forgery, internet terrorism, credit card fraud, and cybercrimes among others.

Threats of the LTTE to the Homeland and International Security

Ubayasiri reveals that Ubayasiri has classified LTTE as an infamous terrorist group (81). This situation is an implication that the militant group poses serious security threats to the home country as well as neighboring countries, government officials, and innocent civilians. These countries are aware that the terrorist group possesses its own military and sophisticated fighting equipment. The organization’s well-organized military structure, administration, and external networks.

This situation makes it a dreaded militant organization to the security of its own country and the security of the abovementioned states where it has carried out militant interventions in the past. As a result, it poses a great challenge to international programs such as the war against terrorism (Guribye 241). Considering its past terrorist activities such as the assassination of prominent people and successive suicide attacks, have proven its lethality; hence, it poses a significant security threat to many people in both the homeland country as well as international countries.

Although LTTE has had a multitude of conflicts with the government of Sri Lanka, the militant group has also been carrying out terrorist attacks outside the country as well as establishing links with Tamil expatriates in other states (Guribye 241). LTTE operated in three theatres where it protested and campaigned against the Sri Lankan government. At the outset, the militant group operated in the northern theatre. This situation led to the development of intense warfare between its fighters and government forces.

Another state was the eastern theatre, where fighting was moderate and of a lower intensity than in the northern theatre. The militant group also operated in the southern and western theatres, where it targeted political and military leaders, financial centers, and the capital Colombo. Other active regions where the group had well-established links are India, France, Germany, Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Switzerland. This group used some of the abovementioned terror activities to raise funds for its further terror interventions (Vittori 65).

Support and Funding of the LTTE militants

Vittori claims that the LTTE group carried out training and operations that were organized and funded by the Indian government up to the mid-1980s (57). However, the Indian government stopped its support for the group after it began engaging in terrorist activities. Vittori unveils that the group uses charity fronts to collect money (59). The author also reveals that Tamil expatriates who have lived in those countries acquire requirements such as weapons and weaponry equipment from America, Asia, and western countries.

The same Tamil expatriate communities also carried out money laundering to fund the military group. Another strategy used by the group to acquire funds was fundraising. The funds majorly came from Switzerland, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Scandinavian countries. The group has developed offices and cells that organize and facilitate the movement of weapons as well as fundraising. Lastly, LTTE raises money through the trafficking of drugs such as heroin and cocaine in Asia. Drug trafficking is facilitated by LTTE’s well-established global networks that ease smuggling and transportation of narcotics (Vittori 63).

Analysis and Conclusions

A detailed analysis of the Sri Lankan military interventions against the lethal militant group exposes how the government accomplished its mission to bring down the terrorist organization. Despite the lethalness of the militant group, the Sri Lankan government deployed a powerful state military that exercised offensive strategies against the members, especially the leaders of LTTE. Nonetheless, LTTE’s dreadful militant operations resulted in massive destruction of property and human life. The government of Sri Lanka has had poor military means to deal with the notorious terrorist group.

Although the government numerously engaged the militant group in peace talks, they became adamant to the government’s decisions by making unachievable demands. The failure of the peace initiative to negotiate with LTTE forced the government of Sri Lanka to deploy its reenergized military on the group’s various areas of operations. This situation significantly stabilized the country. The Sri Lankan government declared victory over the group in 2009. The Sri Lankan forces killed the leader of the lethal group in the same year. This state of affairs forced the group to concede defeat. The renewed strength of the state military led to the ultimate defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

The author reveals that the government had maintained ill-equipped military tools during LTTE’s military operations in 1983 that claimed many lives and damaged properties. Nevertheless, the government learned a great lesson that compelled its military forces to upgrade its Air Force equipment to match or perhaps surpass the technologies of the lethal group. The upgrade of the state security improved the government’s position to battle against the terrorist group in 2005 by conducting offensive air campaigns in every territorial border of the country. The peace of any country is highly dependent on the strength of its military personnel.

Works Cited

Chalk, Peter. “Tigers evolve: The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’s developing suicide attack methods.” Jane’s Intelligence Review 19.3(2007): 14. Print.

Guribye, Eugene. “Quislings: Barriers to Linking Social Capital amongst Members of Pro-Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam Non-Governmental Organizations in Norway in a Post-Conflict Situation.” Journal of Civil Society 9.3(2013): 233-47. Print.

Pattanaik, Smruti. “The Tamil Nadu Factor in Post-war Sri Lanka: Perspectives of Tamils and Muslims.” Strategic Analysis 38.5(2014): 634-51. Print.

Ubayasiri, Kasun. LTTE narratives in Tamilnet: Independent media or Tiger proxy, 2004. Web.

Vittori, Jodi. Terrorist Financing and Resourcing, New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. Print.

Willford, Andrew and Sathyanarayanan Nagarajan. Tamils and the Haunting of Justice: History and Recognition in Malaysia’s Plantations, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2014. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2020, July 9). The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-liberation-tigers-of-tamil-eelam/

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"The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam." IvyPanda, 9 July 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/the-liberation-tigers-of-tamil-eelam/.

1. IvyPanda. "The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam." July 9, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-liberation-tigers-of-tamil-eelam/.


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IvyPanda. "The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam." July 9, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-liberation-tigers-of-tamil-eelam/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam." July 9, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-liberation-tigers-of-tamil-eelam/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam'. 9 July.

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