Timeline: Sri Lankan civil war
More than 60,000 people have died as a result of the civil war
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Tuesday, 07, Apr 2009 11:35
The Sri Lankan civil war has been fought for almost 26 years between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels. The minority Tamil population are based in the north-east of the country, with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) considered to be the main body representing the Tamil rebels. They demand an independent state in the north-east for the Tamil people. Tensions finally erupted into violence in 1983, and it is estimated more than 60,000 people have died as a result of the civil war over the last two decades.
First Eelam war
July 23rd 1983
The LTTE ambush government troops and kill 13 soldiers. The attack leads to a wave of anti-Tamil demonstrations where several hundred Tamils are killed; the incident marks the beginning of the first Eelam war.
The government and LTTE attempt to find a solution through peace talks, but the sessions fail.
Government forces push LTTE rebels back to the north of the island to the city of Jaffna, and organise Tamil councils to be in charge of Tamil areas. In an attempt to stem the violence in Sri Lanka and prevent similar actions from Tamil separatists in India, Indian peacekeeping troops enter Sri Lanka.
Second Eelam war
Despite the presence of peacekeeping troops, resistance to India's involvement in Sri Lankan government and continuing violence in the north cause Indian forces to leave the country.
The civil war continues to rage, as the second Eelam war begins. Tamil separatists force thousands of Muslims out of the north of the country.
May 21st 1991
Indian premier Rajiv Gandhi assassinated and 14 others killed in southern India, with many pointing to LTTE involvement. It is later reported the assassination was carried out by female LTTE suicide bomber Thenmuli Rajaratnam.
May 1st 1993
Sri Lankan president Ranasinghe Premadasa killed in an LTTE bomb attack during a May Day parade, and replaced by Chandrika Karamatunga the following year. President Karamatunga agrees to enter into talks with the LTTE again, but these also fail.
Third Eelam war
Numerous attacks and fighting between the LTTE and Sri Lankan army carried on into the third Eelam war. Tamil Tigers sink a navy vessel, bomb one of Sri Lanka's holiest Buddhist sites and destroy half the Sri Lankan Airlines fleet of planes in a suicide attack on the international airport.
Following six years of violence that killed thousands of civilians, troops and rebels, a Norwegian-brokered peace deal leads to a ceasefire. The road to Jaffna, the rebels' stronghold in the north, is reopened after 12 years of closure and LTTE stop demanding a separatist state. The rebels pull out of talks in 2003, but an uneasy ceasefire holds out.
Prominent Tiger leader Karuna announces he is splitting from members of the rebel group seeking peace, and the Tigers start to take control of the north-east once again. In July the ceasefire is broken by a suicide bomb attack in Colombo.
December 26th 2004
More than 30,000 Sri Lankans are killed following the Boxing Day Asian tsunami, which floods the island, destroying coastal towns and villages. A government agreement to share $3 billion in aid with the Tamil victims of the floods increases tensions.
Tamils begin violence again and a state of emergency is declared after the Tamil Sri Lankan foreign minister Lakshman Kadirgama, who was often critical of the rebels, is assassinated.
Elections are held in November but most Tamils do not vote and former prime minister Mahinda Rajupaska is elected as president.
Violence spread as Tamils kill eight people in a bomb attack on a military compound in Colombo, and government forces hit Tamil targets with air strikes. Peace talks in Geneva fail to find a solution.
January 2nd 2008
The Sri Lankan government officially withdraws from the ceasefire, saying the LTTE have violated its terms more than 10,000 times. The Sri Lankan army starts moving north, capturing the Tamil's naval base of Vadattaltivu in July. There are heavy casualties on both sides as forces continue north.
Government troops capture Kilinochchi, the Tamil administrative headquarters, following ten years of Tamil control. Sri Lankan officials urge the rebels to surrender, while international concerns were voiced about the thousands of civilians trapped in the battle zones. The Tamils later reject an offer of amnesty in exchange for surrender to government forces.
Both sides are accused of war crimes, but the government has ignores pleas for a temporary ceasefire, saying they are close to defeating the rebels. An estimated 150,000 are trapped in the north-eastern area where there conflict continues.