The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
Over the past thirty years, there have been many insurgent groups, terrorist organizations, and rebellions, in regions across the globe. From Kosovo, to Iraq, to the Democratic Republic of The Congo, these groups have generally wreaked untold destruction on the countries that harbor them. Of all these groups, however, few have been more deadly and destructive than the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, also known as the LTTE or Tamil Tigers.
First, some historical background is needed. The primary goal of the LTTE was not to spread an Islamic Caliphate across Afro-Eurasia, or to destroy western civilization and replace it with Sharia law. The LTTE’s primary goal was the creation of an independent Tamil State across North and East Sri Lanka. In 1972, the Sri Lankan government made Buddhism the official religion, and Sinhalese the official language. This was seen as an attack on the Hindu, Tamil speaking, Tamil population. As a result, many Tamil resistance groups formed, including the LTTE. In 1983, Government clashes with protesters killed hundreds of Tamils, after the LTTE attacked Sri Lankan troops. Tamil resistance consolidated around the LTTE, and left the Tigers as the only group that was fighting the Sri-Lankan government.
At the height of its power in 2002, the Tigers controlled 15,000 square kilometers of territory, ¼ of the country it operated in: Sri Lanka. This wasn’t barren desert with control of a few roads like ISIS, but control of hundreds of villages and towns all across northeast Sri Lanka, which were home to around 3.5 million people. The Tigers were so powerful, in fact, that they were able to sign a ceasefire with the Sri Lankan government in 2002, which brought them very close to their goal of an independent Tamil state in Sri Lanka. They even managed to create their own self government, which had a positive reaction from the international community.
The Tiger rise to power is none other than extraordinary. The LTTE assassinated not one, but two global leaders: The then Sri Lankan president, Ranasinghe Premadasa, and the former Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi, resulting in them being designated a terror organization by 33 different countries. Gandhi, in particular, was assassinated because of his role in the Indian Peacekeeping Force that was dispatched to Sri Lanka in 1987. The IKPF brutally attacked the LTTE and became embroiled in a 3-year long guerrilla war, which ended in 1990 when the IKPF pulled out. Despite this, the LTTE despised Gandhi for having sent the IKPF to Sri Lanka, and assassinated Gandhi in 1991.
The Tamil Tigers are rumored to have invented the suicide vest, and pioneered the use of suicide bombings in war, long before ISIS or Boko Haram. The LTTE not only pioneered suicide bombings, but much like modern Islamist terrorist groups, created a cult around martyrdom and suicide bombing. Their suicide bombing arm, the Black Tigers, trained Al-Qaeda forces in the Middle East, and rebels in Chechnya. They also smuggled weapons across the Indian Ocean to far-flung terror organizations. In exchange, the Tigers received millions of dollars worth of funds from other terror groups, as well as funds from Tamils living in the western world.
The LTTE was also the only terror organization to possess an army, navy, and air force.
They had 22 ships, and around a dozen aircraft of various types, and around 20,000-30,000 soldiers. The LTTE even managed to use their air force in a bombing attack on the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo. The naval division, the “Sea Tigers” had sunk 29 Sri Lankan ships, using a variety of suicide boats. The LTTE also hijacked a geostationary satellite over the Indian Ocean, and used it to beam down propaganda over the entire subcontinent.
Eventually, however, the LTTE was defeated, after the 2002 ceasefire broke down in 2006. The Sri Lankan government began a systematic campaign to wipe the LTTE off the island. After a large scale defection led by Colonel Karuna, the Sri Lankan government gained significant intelligence on the LTTE, as well as newfound strength. The Sri Lankan government drastically increased its military budget and its personnel, and launched a series of devastating attacks in the East, eventually retaking it. The government also destroyed the Tiger navy, and cut it off from the rest of the world. A final, brutal conquest in the North of Sri Lanka resulted in the death of Velupillai Prabhakaran, the Tiger leader. After 22 years of a destructive civil war that killed anywhere from 60,000-100,000 people, the guns of the Tigers were finally silenced, and the small island nation returned to peace and prosperity.