Fighting intensifies between Tamil Tigers rebels and Sri Lanka

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Wed Jan 30 16:19:30 UTC 2008

from the January 31, 2008 edition -

Fighting intensifies between Tamil Tigers rebels and Sri Lanka

More than 10 children were killed Tuesday when their school bus was

By Julien Spencer

Violence has surged in Sri Lanka following the government's decision at
the beginning of the year to declare null and void the 2001 cease-fire
with the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), sending an
ominous sign about the level of violence the country may confront this
year. The Tamil Tigers said Tuesday that some dozen children were also
killed when their school bus was ambushed by government troops. A
pro-rebel website,, said that a "Deep Penetrating Unit" of
the Sri Lankan Army carried out the mine attack against the bus.

The military denied involvement. "Whatever has happened, the LTTE is
responsible for it. The Sri Lankan Army will never resort to an act such
as targeting school-children," said an Army spokesperson. The BBC,
reporting from Sri Lanka, says that the new violence is an ominous sign.
"It had been widely predicted that '2008 would be the year of war for Sri
Lanka.' The current escalation of violence since 1 January supports those

According to Reuters, fighting over the weekend and early this week
resulted in close to 100 casualties. "Sri Lanka's air force bombed Tamil
Tiger positions in the far north while ground battles killed 14 rebels and
a government soldier on Monday, taking the death toll in three days of
fighting to 94, the military said." The violence signals the official
collapse of a 2001 Norwegian brokered cease-fire. Fighting had picked up
again in 2005, leaving more than 5,000 dead and internally displacing
200,000 people in two years. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International
issued an appeal, saying that the United Nations Security Council should
intervene in the deteriorating situation. The rights' groups criticized
the conduct of both rebel and government forces.

"With the resumption of heavy fighting between the Liberation Tigers of
Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and government forces, deliberate and indiscriminate
attacks on civilians are taking place in violation of international
humanitarian law. With these escalating threats to the safety of
civilians, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are calling on the
Human Rights Council to take action by demanding that the Government of
Sri Lanka and the LTTE improve the protection of civilians." While the
government has been moving more assertively to end the fight, Reuters
reports that a government victory was neither close, nor inevitable.
"While the government has had the upper hand in recent months, killing
senior rebel figures including the Tigers' political wing leader and
military intelligence chief, military analysts say the rebels have
retained their strike capability and see no clear winner on the horizon."

The LTTE, which wants an independent state in the north and east of the
country, has killed numerous Sri Lankan politicians, including the Nation
Building Minister D.M. Dassanayake in January of this year, and US and
European governments label them a terrorist organization. According to the
Council of Foreign Relations: "Since the late 1980s, the group has
conducted some 200 suicide bombings far more than any other terrorist
group. LTTE suicide bombers have attacked civilians on mass transit, at
Buddhist shrines, and in office buildings."

International powers have long played a mediating role in the conflict
particularly neighboring India, which has a Tamil state. (The extent of
the country's involvement can be measured by the May 1991 assassination of
former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv by a Tamil Tiger suicide bomber,
reports the BBC.) Indian leaders have been disheartened by the recent
military escalation, reports the BBC. "The government's decision to
abrogate the ceasefire agreement has disappointed major international
powers, including neighbouring India. "We strongly believe that there is
no military solution to the issue," an Indian government spokesman said
after the Sri Lankan government's announcement on terminating the

The Times of India reports that the Tamil Tigers have appealed to the
Indian government for assistance. "With the Sri Lankan military stepping
up its offensive against the Tamil Tigers, a senior pro-LTTE leader has
asked New Delhi to assume greater responsibility in resolving the ethnic
conflict in the Island nation. "India must play a role. India is a country
very close to all of us...  close to Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims alike.
We all came from there,"  Tamil National Alliance parliamentary party
leader [Rajavayothi] Sampanthan said."


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