A Department of Homeland Security Emeritus Center of Excellence led by the University of Maryland

BAAD - Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) - 2009


Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was created in 1976 in response to the growing ethnic and political tensions between minority Tamils and majority Sinhalese in the northern and eastern areas of Sri Lanka.[2] Tensions between the Tamils and the Sinhalese are rooted in exclusionary practices and policies of the Sinhalese-dominated government, albeit reinforced by differences in language and religion.[3] The purpose and goal of LTTE was to create a homeland for ethnic Tamils in northern and eastern Sri Lanka.[4]  In pursuit of this goal, the organization fought a civil war against the Sri Lankan government for 26 years, between 1983 and 2009.[5] From 1986 to 1990, the LTTE also attacked rival insurgencies it perceived as "traitors and opportunists," fully eliminating the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO), and seriously impacting the capabilities of the People’s Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam (PLOT) and the Indian-sponsored Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPERLF).[6] The LTTE ruled over northeast Sri Lanka as a de facto government, in which the organization shared much of the governing responsibilities with Sri Lankan local governments.[7] The group is responsible for creating and employing the use of the suicide belts and suicide bombers, while also being the first group to employ women as military soldiers.[8] Between 2002 and 2008, LTTE signed a Norwegian-mediated ceasefire, in which both sides agreed to stop fighting, bring an end to violent intimidation, and engage in a series of six peace-talks, supervised by Norwegian diplomats.[9] In 2008, the ceasefire was called off by the Sri Lankan government. After several suspected Tamil Tiger attacks, the government returned to militaristic and punitive methods to rid the country of the LTTE.[10] In May 2009, LTTE admitted to being defeated by the Sri Lankan government after a military attack in northeast Sri Lanka left them with very little territory and killed LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran.[11] During the height of its influence, the group was considered by the United States government and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) to be among the most dangerous and deadly extremist groups in the world.[12] View full narrative

Quick Facts for 2009


3016 (Total of 1998 through 2012)

Ethnic, Separatist

Approximately 8,000-11,000

Territorial Control:
Does Not Control Territory (0)

Funding through Drug Trafficking:

Sorry, but there are no organizational details available for this group at this time.


Primary Ideology

  • Ag = Anti-Globalization
  • An = Anarchist
  • En = Ethnic
  • Ev = Environmental
  • Le = Leftist
  • Re = Religious
  • Ri = Rightist
  • Se = Separatist
  • Su = Supremacist
  • Vi = Vigilante


  •  Ally
  •  Suspected Ally
  •  Rival
  •  Violence
  •  Mixed Relations


  •  Blue 0 - 1479 fatalities
  •  Green 1479 - 2958 fatalities
  •  Yellow 2958 - 4437 fatalities
  •  Orange 4437 - 5916 fatalities
  •  Red 5916 - 7396 fatalities

Lethality is calculated as the total number of fatalities from 1998-2012.


Icon sizes depict approximate relative sizes of the organizations.

  • Smallest 0 - 10 members
  •   11 - 100 members
  •   101 - 1000 members
  •   1001 - 10000 members
  • Largest > 10000 members

Other Notes

Icons with no color coding or ideology icon have no detailed data at this time, and are provided as relationship information only.