Tamil Tigers – Who were they?

Who are Tamil people?

Tamil people are an ethnic group with a long written history of more than 2,000 years. Traditionally from northeastern parts of Sri Lanka as well as southern parts of India, there are around 74 million Tamil people in the world.

A little bit about Tamil people in Sri Lanka

The story goes, that after the 7th century, during the Chola dynasty invasions, Tamil people were introduced to Sri Lanka. Tamils ruled various parts of Sri Lanka over the years.

Today, there are two groups of Tamil people in Sri Lanka:

– Sri Lankan Tamils, who are descendants of Tamil people from the Jaffna kingdom, or who migrated to the east coast.

– Hill Country Tamils, who are descendants of Tamil people from India, who left for Sri Lanka to work as laborers in the late 19th to early 20th century.

A brief history of Tamil rebels

In 1948, Sri Lanka became independent from British rule. Many Tamil people felt their minority was under threat. They demanded that their rights be protected and called for an independent state they would call Tamil Eelam. Tamil people were targeted with riots and many armed groups formed in order to fight back.

The Tamil Tigers – Who were they?

The Tamil Tigers were formed in 1975 under the name The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Initially one of many groups, the Tamil Tigers grew partly by killing other group leaders and stealing other group members.

Their fight for independence took the Tamil Tigers and Sri Lanka into the Sri Lankan Civil War between 1983 and 2009; the war alone caused an estimated 80,000 – 100,000 deaths.

The Tamil Tigers had a political wing and a military wing, which were governed by a Central Governing Committee. At its height, the Tamil Tigers had more than 10,000 armed soldiers (including women and children) across various branches, including:

– The Charles Anthony Regiment – an elite guerrilla force
– The Black Tigers – a suicide attack unit
– The Sea Tigers – their highly effective naval wing
– The Leopard's Brigade – noted as the fiercest of all fighting units
– The Women's Military Wing – a highly-organized unit for females fighters

The end of the Tamil Tigers

Thankfully, the Tamil Tigers are now defunct, as 2009 saw them defeated by the Sri Lankan Military. They were a ruthless insurgent army, with brutal guerrilla fighters and persistent suicide bombers. Too many lives were needlessly taken on their failed road to independence.

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