A Short History
The insurrection in Sri Lanka follows from a secessionist movement in the 1980's by the Tamils, a minority group of 3.3 million within the Sri Lankan population of 18.7 million (18%). Tensions grew from the Tamil perception of cultural and linguistic opression and discrimination by the Sinhalese Buddhist majority, until Tamil militants moved towards insurgency with guerilla war and terrorist tactics directed at the central government.
As groups representing the Tamil minority built up bases in the jungle areas of the northern and eastern sections of the island, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) emerged as the strongest, though there existed competing groups as well.
An accord was signed in 1987, offering the Tamils an autonomous integrated northeast province within a united Sri Lanka, though an Indian Peace-Keeping Force (IPKF) was required to enforce the terms. Unfortunately, the Sri Lankan government, the LTTE, and the IPKF disagreed over the accord's implementation, and the fighting has continued.
More recently, the Sri Lankan government negotiated the withdrawal of the IPKF in 1990, and has since directed the Sri Lankan army against the rebels. Some estimate that as many as 57,000 people have been killed in the war.
|May 6, 1998||Tamil Tiger rebels cease fighting in an unilateral two-day cease-fire to facilitate a top U.N. official's visit to Sri Lanka's war-torn areas.|
|September 11, 1998||A bomb explosion in northern Jaffna's city hall kills the area's mayor, various military and police commanders, and 17 others. Military officials postulate that the bombing bears all the hallmarks of the LTTE.|
|September 30, 1998||The Sri Lankan army collects the bodies of 862 soldiers after the heaviest fighting of the year. The military and rebels are engaged over a strategic highway linking the Jaffna peninsula to the rest of Sri Lanka.|
|September 30, 1998||Sri Lankan officials suspect the Tamil rebels in bringing down a passenger plane off northern Sri Lanka. Guerilla soldiers often attack military aircraft using shoulder-fired missles, though they haven't targeted a civilian airplane sinc 1983.|
|October 7, 1998||Rebels launch a heavy assault on the Sri Lankan army after losing an important garrison late last month. In their counterattack, the rebels succeed in overrunning a government stronghold along a key highway supply line that links the Jaffna peninsula to the rest of Sri Lanka.|
|October 16, 1998||The Sri Lankan government issues a statement that claims Sri Lankan troops killed 118 rebels, while losing 58 soldiers, during the ongoing battle for control of a strategic highway. However, the statement was unable to be independently confirmed since the Sri Lankan government bars journalists from the war zone.|
|October 21, 1998||Sri Lanka's main opposition party boycotts a key conference on the so-called "ethnic problem" that was intended to include all political parties. The opposition party blames the party in power for Sri Lanka's deterioration in its war with the Tamil rebels.|
|October 27, 1998||The Sri Lankan government and the Tamil secessionists acknowledge hopes for opening conversations on a peace accord.|
|October 29, 1998||Amnesty International accuses Sri Lanka of delaying an investigation into a mass grave in the country's north. Amnesty suspects that the 400 some Tamil youths that disappeared during the fighting in Jaffna are buried there.|
|November 11, 1998||Judge A.W. Somawansa orders the trial of several leaders of the Tamil Tiger rebels for the 1996 bombing of Sri Lanka's Central Bank, which killed 78 people. Because most of the accused are in hiding, the rebels will be tried in absentia.|
|November 29, 1998||A Sri Lankan gunboat fires at an unidentified aircraft suspected to belong to Tamil Tiger rebels off the northern Jaffna peninsula.|
|November 29, 1998||Moderate members of ethnic Tamil minority parties react to the peace overtures from the LTTE with enthusiasm, though Sri Lankan officials remain skeptical.|
|December 16, 1998||The Sri Lankan navy sinks a Tamil Tiger rebel boat during a confrontation in the Indian ocean off the country's north shore.|
|December 23, 1998||Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kuramaratunga agrees to the prospect of peace talks, if the dialogue occurs within a specific pre-determined time frame.|
|December 24, 1998||Amnesty International accuses the Sri Lankan military and an allied Tamil paramilitary group of various human rights abuses, including the abduction of 8 civilians, the running of three torture camps, and the severe torture of 40 prisoners.|
|January 8, 1999||Sri Lankan troops and rebels skirmish on land and sea, after a month long period of peace overtures.|