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Backgrounder: Major facts about Sri Lankan rebel group Tamil Tiger
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08:24, May 19, 2009

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Sri Lankan government forces on Monday killed Tamil Tiger rebel leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran, which the government claimed a historic military victory against rebels. The following are some key facts about the Tamil Tigers.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, commonly known as the LTTE or the Tamil Tigers, was founded in the 1970s seeking to create an independent Tamil state in the north and east of Sri Lanka.

Since the independence of the country in 1948, conflicts have been mounting between the majority Sinhalese governments and the Tamil minority, which are unsatisfied about the governments' language, employment, education and religion policies.

The LTTE, claiming to fight for the interests of the Tamil minority, launched an armed conflict against the government since its establishment. In July 1983, the LTTE killed 13 government soldiers in northern Sri Lanka, which triggered a long, bitter civil war that had killed 70,000 people and left millions homeless.

Over the past decades, the LTTE has launched abductions and suicide attacks, and carried out various high profile attacks, including the assassinations of several high-ranking Sri Lankan and Indian politicians including former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

They also attacked government buildings, commercial centers, military facilities and even holy sites of Buddhism, drawing strong condemnation from the international community. India, the United States, Britain, Canada and the European Union, among others, have listed the group as a terrorist organization.

In February 2002, the LTTE and the government signed a permanent truce deal. However, the deal was never effective as the armed conflicts between the two sides did not stop.

The LTTE had been expanding its forces and the number of its members had once reached 11,000. The group had controlled areas covering 15,000 square meters in the northern and eastern part of the country.

In July 2006, the government launched a new wave of military operations against the LTTE and retained much of the LTTE-controlled areas.


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