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The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (Tamil: தமிழீழ விடுதலைப் புலிகள் Tamiḻīḻa viṭutalaip pulikaḷ, Sinhalese: දෙමළ ඊළාම් විමුක්ති කොටි Dhemala īlām vimukthi koti, commonly known as the LTTE or the Tamil Tigers) is a now-defunct militant organisation that was based in northern Sri Lanka. Founded in May 1976 by Velupillai Prabhakaran, it waged a secessionist nationalist insurgency to create an monoethnic, independent state in the north and east of Sri Lanka for Tamil people. This campaign led to the Sri Lankan Civil War, which ran from 1983 until 2009, when the LTTE was decisively defeated by the Sri Lankan Military under the leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

At the height of its power, the LTTE possessed a well-developed militia and carried out many high-profile attacks, including the assassinations of several high-ranking Sri Lankan and Indian politicians. The LTTE was the only militant group to assassinate two world leaders: former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 and Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa in 1993. The LTTE invented suicide belts and pioneered the use of women in suicide attacks. It was the first militant group to acquire air power and used light aircraft in some of its attacks. It is currently proscribed as a terrorist organisation by 32 countries, including United States, European Union and India, but has support amongst some Tamils in Tamil Nadu in India. Velupillai Prabhakaran headed the organisation from its inception until his death in 2009.

Historical inter ethnic imbalances between majority Sinhalese and minority Tamil populations are alleged to have created the background for the origin of the LTTE. Post independent Sri Lankan governments attempted to rectify the disproportionate favouring and empowerment of Tamil minority by the colonial rulers, which led to exclusivist ethnic policies including the ″Sinhala only act″ and gave rise to separatist ideologies among many Tamil leaders. By the 1970s, initial non violent political struggle for an independent mono ethnic Tamil state was leveraged as justification for a violent secessionist insurgency led by the LTTE. 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. It was involved in four unsuccessful rounds of peace talks with the Sri Lankan government over the course of the conflict. At its peak in 2000, the LTTE was in control of 76% of the landmass in the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka.

At the start of the final round of peace talks in 2002, the Tamil Tigers, with control of 15,000 km area, ran a virtual mini-state. After the breakdown of the peace process in 2006, the Sri Lankan military launched a major offensive against the Tigers, defeating the LTTE militarily and bringing the entire country under its control. Victory over the Tigers was declared by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on 16 May 2009, and the LTTE admitted defeat on 17 May 2009. Prabhakaran was killed by government forces on 19 May 2009 and Selvarasa Pathmanathan succeeded Prabhakaran as leader of the LTTE, who was later arrested in Malaysia and handed over to the Sri Lankan government in August 2009.


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