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|January 28, 1998||
Political assassination not new for LTTE
The crime for which 26 members/sympathisers of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam were sentenced to death in Madras today is not new to the militant organisation.
The LTTE, once a small band of barefoot fighters, has over time become one of the world's most ferocious and sophisticated guerrilla groups with an arsenal that includes anti-aircraft missiles, and a global fund-raising network.
Its assassinations, suicide bombs and attacks have killed hundreds of civilians and wounded thousands. The group also has a committed squad of suicide bombers, the Black Tigers.
The Tigers grew out of a student movement in Jaffna, the Tamil heartland, in the 1970s, swearing to avenge discrimination by the majority Sinhalese, who control the government and the military. Tamils form 18 per cent of Sri Lanka's 18 million people; the Sinhalese form 70 per cent.
Rajiv Gandhi was killed in May 1991, four years after he sent Indian troops to Sri Lanka to implement the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord. The same year Gandhi was killed, the LTTE was blamed for a car bombing in Colombo that killed Deputy Defence Minister Ranjan Wijeratne.
The next year, navy chief Admiral Clancy Fernando was killed by a suicide bomber riding an explosive-laden motorcycle.
In 1993, the LTTE was blamed for the death of Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa by a suicide bomber at a May Day rally. A year later, a suicide bomber attacked a campaign rally, killing 58 people, including the Opposition United National Party presidential candidate.
The LTTE never claimed responsibility for any of these attacks. The Sri Lankan police have tried time and again to file charges against them, but have found it difficult to gather sufficient evidence.
The LTTE leader, school dropout Velupillai Prabhakaran, was tried in absentia in the Rajiv Gandhi case. Prabhakaran, a 43-year-old who studied guerrilla warfare in Lebanon, and two other Tamil leaders helped set up the rebel group in 1975.
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