Tamil Tigers Timeline: 26 years of terror

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The Independent Online

*1983: An ambush by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the north kills 13 soldiers, triggering anti-Tamil riots in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo. Hundreds are killed and thousands flee.

*1987: Government creates new councils for Tamil areas in north and east, and signs agreement with Indian Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi for India to send peace-keeping troops to enforce a truce. The Tigers refuse to disarm and three years of fighting ensues. More than 1,200 Indian soldiers killed in clashes with LTTE.

*1990: India withdraws from Sri Lanka. The LTTE gains control of the northern city of Jaffna, expelling Muslims.

*1991: Gandhi is assassinated by a suspected LTTE suicide bomber after his efforts to bring about peace in Sri Lanka prove unpopular.

*1993: The Sri Lankan President, Ranasinghe Premadasa, is killed in Colombo by a suicide bomber.

*1995: The government agrees to a truce with rebels, but the conflict flares again after LTTE sinks a naval craft. The government regains control of Jaffna, but war continues across the north and east of the country for the next six years. LTTE targets Sri Lanka's holiest Buddhist site and in a suicide attack on the country's international airport destroys half the Sri Lankan Airlines' fleet. A bomb attack wounds President Kumaratunga.

*2002: Norwegian mediation leads to a landmark ceasefire and the decommissioning of weapons begins. The road linking the Jaffna peninsula with the rest of Sri Lanka is opened for the first time in 12 years. The government lifts a ban on Tamil Tigers, who drop their demand for a separate state.

*2004-05: Tamil Tiger commander Colonel Karuna Amman breaks away from LTTE, taking 6,000 fighters with him. State of emergency declared after a suspected Tiger assassin kills the Sri Lankan foreign minister. The anti-Tiger hardliner, Mahinda Rajapaksa, wins the presidency.

*2006: Fighting flares up and fresh talks in Geneva fail. But the following year, government forces capture LTTE strongholds.

*2008: In early January, the government pulls out of the 2002 ceasefire agreement and launches a massive offensive.

*January 2009: Troops capture Kilinochchi – the northern town held by Tamil Tigers for 10 years and used as their administrative headquarters. President Rajapaksa calls it an unparalleled victory and urges rebels to surrender.

*February 2009: The government rejects international calls for a temporary ceasefire as concerns are raised over the humanitarian situation of civilians trapped in the war zone.

*March 2009: The former rebel leader Amman is sworn in as a government minister, whilst another senior Tamil Tiger figure, Thamilenthi, is reported to have been killed. The UN meanwhile accuses both sides in the conflict of having carried out war crimes.

*April 2009: The government gives rebels 24 hours to surrender after rejecting calls for a truce. Tens of thousands of civilians leave the battle zone.

*M ay 2009: President Rajapaksa says the war is nearing an end as government takes control of the entire coastline. The military claims that more than 50,000 civilians have reached safety in the past four days.