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|Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam|
|தமிழீழ விடுதலைப் புலிகள்|
|Also known as||Tamil Tigers|
|Leader(s)||Velupillai Prabhakaran (KIA)|
|Dates of operation||5 May 1976– 18 May 2009|
|Motives||The creation of the independent state of Tamil Eelam in the north and east of Sri Lanka.|
|Status||Inactive. Militarily defeated in May 2009.|
|Annual revenue||US$200–300 million prior to the military defeat.|
|Means of revenue||Donations from expatriate Tamils, extortion, shipping, sales of weapons and taxation under LTTE-controlled areas.|
|Part of a series on|
|Sri Lankan Tamils|
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (Tamil: தமிழீழ விடுதலைப் புலிகள், translit. Tamiḻīḻa viṭutalaip pulikaḷ, Sinhalese: දෙමළ ඊළාම් විමුක්ති කොටි, translit. Demaḷa īḷām vimukti koṭi, commonly known as the LTTE or the Tamil Tigers)  was a Tamil militant organization that was based in northeastern Sri Lanka. Founded in May 1976 by Velupillai Prabhakaran, it waged a secessionist nationalist insurgency to create an independent state of Tamil Eelam in the north and east of Sri Lanka for Tamil people. This campaign led to the Sri Lankan Civil War, which ran from 1983 until 2009, when the LTTE was eventually defeated, with the financial and strategic help of China, by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces during the presidency of Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Due to its military victories, policies, call for national self-determination and constructive Tamil nationalist platform, the LTTE was supported by major sections of the Tamil community. University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) claimed that "by combination of internal terror and narrow nationalist ideology the LTTE succeeded in atomizing the community. It took away not only the right to oppose but even the right to evaluate, as a community, the course they were taking. This gives a semblance of illusion that the whole society is behind the LTTE."
At the height of its power, the LTTE possessed a well-developed militia and carried out many high-profile militant attacks, including the assassinations of several high-ranking Sri Lankan and Indian politicians. The LTTE was the only militant group to assassinate two world leaders: former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 and Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa in 1993. The LTTE invented suicide belts and pioneered the use of women in suicide attacks in warfare. It also acquired and used light aircraft in some of its attacks. Velupillai Prabhakaran headed the organisation from its inception until his death in 2009. The LTTE was proscribed as a terrorist organisation by 32 countries, including the European Union, United States, and India.
Historical inter-ethnic imbalances between majority Sinhalese and minority Tamil populations are alleged to have created the background for the origin of the LTTE. Post independent Sri Lankan governments attempted to rectify the disproportionate favouring and empowerment of Tamil minority by the colonial rulers, which led to discriminatory ethnic policies including the "Sinhala Only Act" and gave rise to separatist ideologies among many Tamil leaders. By the 1970s, initial non violent political struggle for an independent mono-ethnic Tamil state was used as justification for a violent secessionist insurgency led by the LTTE. Over the course of the conflict, the Tamil Tigers frequently exchanged control of territory in north-east Sri Lanka with the Sri Lankan military, with the two sides engaging in intense military confrontations. It was involved in four unsuccessful rounds of peace talks with the Sri Lankan government over the course of the conflict. At its peak in 2000, the LTTE was in control of 76% of the landmass in the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka.
At the start of the final round of peace talks in 2002, the Tamil Tigers controlled a 15,000 km2 (5,800 sq mi) area. After the breakdown of the peace process in 2006, the Sri Lankan military launched a major offensive against the Tigers, defeating the LTTE militarily and bringing the entire country under its control. Human rights groups criticised the nature of the victory which included the internment of Tamil civilians in concentration camps with little or no access to outside agencies. Victory over the Tigers was declared by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on 16 May 2009, and the LTTE admitted defeat on 17 May 2009. Prabhakaran was killed by government forces on 19 May 2009. Selvarasa Pathmanathan succeeded Prabhakaran as leader of the LTTE, but he was later arrested in Malaysia and handed over to the Sri Lankan government in August 2009.
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