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Terrorism in Sri Lanka


Terrorism in Sri Lanka

Terrorism in Sri Lanka has been a highly destructive phenomenon during the periods of Sri Lankan Civil War (1983-2009) and first and second JVP Insurrections (1971 and 1987–89). A common definition of terrorism is the systematic use or threatened use of violence to intimidate a population or government for political, religious, or ideological goals.[1][2] Sri Lanka is a country that has experienced some of the worst known acts of modern terrorism, such as suicide bombings, massacres of civilians and assassination of political and social leaders, that posed a significant threat to the society, economy and development of the country. The Prevention of Terrorism Act of 1978 is the legislation, that provides the powers to law enforcement officers to deal with issues related to terrorism in Sri Lanka.[3] It was first enacted as a temporary law in 1979 under the presidency of J. R. Jayewardene, and later made permanent in 1982.

Terrorism found in Sri Lanka can be mainly categorized in to ethno-nationalist terrorism, left wing terrorism and state terrorism. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) are mainly accused for the destruction caused by terrorism in the country.[4][5][6] The LTTE, also known as Tamil Tigers is a deadly extremist militant group that has launched a campaign of violence and bloodshed in Sri Lanka, to seize control of the country from the Sinhalese ethnic majority to create an independent Tamil state.[7][8][9][10] This campaign led to the Sri Lankan Civil War, which ran from 1983 until 2009, when the LTTE was decisively defeated by the Sri Lankan Military. Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna is a Marxist-Leninist, communist party, which was involved in two armed uprisings against the ruling governments in 1971 (SLFP) and 1987–89 (UNP). After the two unsuccessful insurrections the JVP entered democratic politics in 1994.


  • History and origins 1
    • JVP insurrections 1.1
    • Sri Lankan Civil War 1.2
  • Terrorist attacks 2
  • Counter-terrorism 3
  • State terrorism 4
  • Proscribed organizations 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

History and origins

Main cities in Sri Lanka.

JVP insurrections

The leftist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna drew worldwide attention to Sri Lanka, when it launched an insurrection against the Bandaranaike government in April 1971. Although the insurgents were young, poorly armed, and inadequately trained, they succeeded in seizing and holding major areas in Southern and Central provinces before they were defeated by the security forces.[11] Their attempt to seize power created a major crisis for the government and forced a fundamental reassessment of the nation's security needs.[11] The conflict saw a limited usage of weapons and tactics from both parties. The JVP had prepared for the insurrection in the years leading up to it gathering weapons and ammunition, though modern weapons were of limited access to them.

The government reacted to the JVP's insurrection by launching a brutal crackdown which resulted in the killing, in a period of just five weeks, of up to 20,000 young people suspected of being JVP members.[12][13][14][15][16] According to another source, the official death toll was about 1,200 but unofficial figures reliably estimated it to be around four to five thousand.[17] JVP became the first organization to be proscribed in Sri Lanka in 1971, after their revolt.[18] The government forces were ill equipped to deal with a full-scale insurrection with world war two vintage British weapons. Although the major danger disappeared after three weeks, it took nearly three more months to completely eradicate the rebellion outposts in the jungles and remote villages. JVP became the first organization to be proscribed in Sri Lanka in 1971, after their revolt.[18]

They JVP was prescribed once again, after July 1983 disturbances amidst government allegations that they have been involved in plots to destabilize the country and overthrow the government.[18] This led to the second insurrection of JVP.[19] The second insurrection was not an open revolt, like the 1971 insurrection but appeared to be a low intensity conflict that lasted from 1987 to 1989 with the JVP resorting to assassinations, subversion, raids and attacks on military and civilian targets.[20] The JVP’s military wing Deshapremi Janatha Vyaparaya (Patriotic People’s Movement aka DJV) was more active in terrorist activities in the second insurrection.[21] During the second insurrection DJV gave priority to the killing of civilians, be it political rivals or simple citizens who disobeyed the innumerable orders of JVP.[22]

The government once gain cracked down on the JVP's insurrection using brutal force, killing tens of thousands of students and other civilians suspected of being JVP sympathisers.[23][24][25][26][27][28] According to another source over 60,000 persons were killed during this insurrection, others sources suggests that the number of killed and made to disappear by killer squads is altogether not more than 35,000.[29] The total number of victims included those of the DJV, the military wing of JVP and as well as those killed in retaliation by the government’s official armed groups and other killer squads. Throughout this insurrection many state and private property were also destroyed.[29] The second insurrection of JVP came to and end, when JVP's key leaders such as Rohana Wijeweera, Upatissa Gamanayake and Saman Piyasiri Fernando were assassinated by the end of 1989.[30][31]

Sri Lankan Civil War

The government forces of Sri Lanka were involved in an armed conflict with the independent Tamil in the north and eastern provinces of the island. Beginning from 1983, the war has lasted nearly three decades and was one of the longest-running civil wars in Asia. After a 26-year long military campaign, the Sri Lankan military defeated the Tamil Tigers in May 2009, bringing the civil war to an end.[32] There are widespread allegations that the Sri Lankan military and the LTTE committed numerous atrocities and human rights violations, including war crimes, during the civil war.[33][34][35] A United Nations report found that as many as 40,000 civilians may have been killed in the final months of the civil war, mostly as a result of indiscriminate shelling by the Sri Lankan military.[36][37][38] The report also found that the Sri Lankan military/government shelled hospitals and humanitarian objects; denied humanitarian assistance; violated the human rights of civilians and LTTE combatants; and it violated the human rights of those outside the conflict zone such as the media.[39][40][41] The report concluded that the "conduct of the war represented a grave assault on the entire regime of international law designed to protect individual dignity during both war and peace".[42] During the final phases of the war, the LTTE used Tamil civilians as Human shields to protect fleeing cadres, which accounted for dramatic increase of casualties in the last months of the conflict.[43][44] The LTTE is also accused for attacking the Tamil civilians who fled their diminishing control areas during the final phases of the war.[45][46] The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is currently investigating the alleged war crimes.[47][48]

For over 25 years, the war caused significant hardships to the population, environment and the United States, India, Canada and the member nations of the European Union.[52][53] The LTTE was proscribed for the first time in Sri Lanka in 1998, after their attack to the temple of the tooth, a highly sacred Buddhist shrine and a UNESCO world heritage site. The police and home guards retaliated for the Temple of the Tooth attack by massacring eight Tamil civilians in Tampalakamam on 3 February 1998.[54][55] Later the LTTE was proscribed again in 2009. In May 2009, Sri Lankan government formally declared an end to the 25-year civil war after the army took control of the entire island and the death of the founding leader of the Tamil Tigers, Velupillai Prabhakaran.[56]

Terrorist attacks

A number of terrorists attacks have occurred in Sri Lanka, specially during the periods of civil war (1983-2009) and the second JVP insurrection (1987 -1989). According to independent sources Sri Lanka was subjected to some of the worst terrorist attacks that have occurred worldwide with 100 or more fatalities over the last 100 years.[57][58] The deadliest terrorist attacks with over 100 deaths that have happened in Sri Lanka, includes Sri Maha Bodhi attack, Aluth Oya massacre, Colombo Central Bus Station bombing, Kattankudy mosque massacre, Palliyagodella massacre and Digampathana bombing.[57][58] The Colombo Central Bank bombing had the highest number of civilian casualties and the greatest amount of explosive force (over 400 kg) deployed against a civilian target, over the various LTTE attacks that occurred during the civil war.[59] The attack killed over 90 people and injured 1,400 others.[60] The perpetrators of all these deadliest terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka was LTTE.[61][62][63][64][65] In addition to the deadly bomb attacks, the LTTE attacked the Sinhalese and Muslim villages and was also involved in massacres of civilians as a part of their campaign to control territory.[66][67]

According to the FBI, LTTE was a militant group that has perfected the use of suicide bombings, invented the suicide belt and pioneered the use of woman in suicide attacks.[7] The FBI also claim they were the first group to assassinate two world leaders.[7] Since the late 1980s, the group has conducted approximately two hundred suicide attacks.[68] Targets have included transit hubs, shrines, and office buildings.[68] Beyond suicide bombings, the LTTE has used conventional bombs and Claymore mines to attack political and civilian targets, and has gunned down both Sri Lankan officials and civilians.[68]

The attacks of JVP and its military wing DJV during the second JVP insurrection were not as deadly as some of the attacks of LTTE, but occurred in a higher frequency in many parts of the country. Some of the notable attacks of JVP/DJV includes 1987 grenade attack in the Sri Lankan Parliament, 1989 Temple of the Tooth attack and Bomb attack to the Kataragama Esala procession in July 1989.[69] In addition to the assassinations of political rivals and other who opposed Marxists principles, the JVP/DJV were also involved in many attacks to the public and private property such as burning of public transport vehicles, blasting transformers and destroying utilities etc.[70]


The Special Task Force (STF) is an elite special forces unit of the Sri Lanka Police Service specializing in counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations.[71] It was formed in 1983 not as a military force but rather as a highly specialised police unit. Today it has developed into a major security arm of the state involved in VIP security, protecting sensitive terrorist targets and suppressing activities which pose a threat to national security.[72]

State terrorism

The Sri Lankan government has been accused of sponsoring and aiding terrorism against the country's population during the later part of the 20th century.[73][74][75][76] The government and the Armed Forces have been accused of attacks on civilians, indiscriminate shelling and bombing, extrajudicial killings, rape, torture, disappearance, arbitrary detention, forced displacement and economic blockade.[73][77][78][79] According to Amnesty International Sri Lanka's laws, government and society facilitated these accusations.[77]

Proscribed organizations

The following organisations have been banned by the government of Sri Lanka at some point in time. Some have also been banned by foreign governments.



See also

  • Organized crime


  1. ^ John Philip Jenkins (ed.). "Terrorism".  
  2. ^ "Terrorism".  
  3. ^ Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act No. 48 of 1979, SATP
  4. ^ JVP and LTTE the twin menace that destroyed this Nation, A.A.M. Nizam, Daily News
  5. ^ Trying to shoo the Eagle away, The Island
  6. ^ The Separatist Conflict in Sri Lanka: Terrorism, Ethnicity, Political Economy, Asoka Bandarage
  7. ^ a b c Taming the Tamil Tigers, FBI
  8. ^ LTTE, International Terrorist Symbols Data Base
  9. ^ International Perspectives on Terrorist Victimisation: An Interdisciplinary, Javier Argomaniz
  10. ^ Sri Lanka’s RehabilitationProgram: A New Frontierin Counter Terrorism and Counter Insurgency, Malkanthi Hettiarachchi
  11. ^ a b The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, Library of Congress Country Studies
  12. ^ Hughes, Dhana (2013). Violence, Torture and Memory in Sri Lanka: Life After Terror.  
  13. ^ Jayasinghe, Amal (3 September 2001). "Analysis: Sworn enemy turned ally".  
  14. ^ Rampton, David (2013). ""Deeper Hegemony": The Politics of Sinhala Nationalist Authenticity and the Failures of Power-Sharing in Sri Lanka". In Woods, Eric Taylor; Schertzer, Robert S.; Kaufmann, Eric. Nationalism and Conflict Management.  
  15. ^ Perera, Jehan (2001). "Approaches to Ending the Civil War in Sri Lanka: The Role of the State and Civil Society". In Colletta, Nat J.; Lim, Teck Ghee; Kelles-Viitanen, Anita. Social Cohesion and Conflict Prevention in Asia: Managing Diversity Through Development. World Bank Publications. p. 385.  
  16. ^ "April 1971". Peace and Conflict Timeline. 
  17. ^ The Insurrection that Turned Sri Lanka’s Political Culture Violent, Professor Laksiri Fernando, Asian Tibune
  18. ^ a b c Ramifications of banning political parties and organisations, Daily Mirror
  19. ^ Building Local Capacities for Peace, Markus Mayer, Darini Rajasingham-Senanayake, Yuvi Thangarajah
  20. ^ Wolf in a sheep’s skin – JVP’s new clothes, The Island-opinion
  21. ^ Lal Kantha lets the cat out of the bag, The Island
  22. ^ 1989 election amidst JVP terror, Sunday Observer, W.T.A. Leslie Fernando
  23. ^ Hughes, Dhana (2013). Violence, Torture and Memory in Sri Lanka: Life After Terror.  
  24. ^ "World Report 1990: Sri Lanka - Human Rights Developments".  
  25. ^ Juergensmeyer, Mark (2008). Global Rebellion: Religious Challenges to the Secular State, from Christian Militias to al Qaeda.  
  26. ^ Whitaker, Mark (2006). "Internet Counter Counter-Insurgency: and Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka". In Landzelius, Kyra. Native on the Net: Indigenous and Diasporic Peoples in the Virtual Age.  
  27. ^ Trawick, Margaret (2003). "Killing and Healing Revisited: On Cultural Difference, Warfare and Sacrifice". In Nichter, Mark; Lock, Margaret. New Horizons in Medical Anthropology: Essays in Honour of Charles Leslie.  
  28. ^ Hyndman, Patricia; Guthrie, Jeannine (May 1992). Human Rights Accountability in Sri Lanka.  
  29. ^ a b JVP atrocities: set that record straight-Reign of terror, 1986-1990, Daily News, Dharman Wickremaratne
  30. ^ JVP Leader and Revolutionary Rohana Wijeweera’s demise 25 years ago, D.B.S.Jeyaraj, Daily Mirror
  31. ^ FSP leader Kumar Gunaratnam fought a Guerilla war against the Indian army, Daily Mirror
  32. ^ "LTTE defeated; Sri Lanka liberated from terror". Ministry of Defence, Government of Sri Lanka. 18 May 2009. Retrieved 18 May 2009. 
  33. ^ Davidson, Helen (5 February 2014). "Sri Lankan security forces destroyed evidence of war crimes, report claims".  
  34. ^ "Q&A: Post-war Sri Lanka".  
  35. ^ Welch, Dylan (26 October 2011). "Fraser supports call for Sri Lanka war crimes inquiry".  
  36. ^ Aneez, Shihar; Sirilal, Ranga (7 April 2014). "Sri Lanka won't cooperate U.N. war crime probe: foreign minister".  
  37. ^ Lynch, Colum (22 April 2011). "U.N.: Sri Lanka's crushing of Tamil Tigers may have killed 40,000 civilians".  
  38. ^ "'"UN: Sri Lanka mass deaths may be 'war crimes.  
  39. ^ "Report of the UNSG’s panel of experts on accountability in SL".  
  40. ^ "UN panel admits international failure in Vanni war, calls for investigations".  
  41. ^ "Summary of UN Panel report".  
  42. ^  
  43. ^ Gender, National Security, and Counter-Terrorism: Human rights perspectives, edited by Margaret L. Satterthwaite, Jayne Huckerby
  44. ^ The Ethics of Insurgency, pg 147, By Michael L. Gross
  45. ^ LTTE propaganda, Human Rights Watch, John MacKinnon via Lankaweb
  46. ^ See LTTE for cold blooded murderers they are" - Human Rights Minister, News Line (Government of Sri Lanka)
  47. ^ "United Nations launches Sri Lanka war crimes inquiry; Australia declines to support resolution".  
  48. ^ Buncombe, Andrew (27 March 2014). "UN launches official investigation into Sri Lankan war crimes".  
  49. ^  
  50. ^ "Modi visits Lanka’s Tamil heartland".  
  51. ^ "Resolution on Abuses in Sri Lanka Welcome But Not Strong Enough".  
  52. ^ Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam, Mapping militant organizations, Stanford Uni
  53. ^ See here for related references.
  54. ^ Weiss, Gordon (2012).  
  55. ^ "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Sri Lanka 1999".  
  56. ^ Sri Lanka declares end to war with Tamil Tigers, The Guardian
  57. ^ a b Map of worst terrorist attacks worldwide: 100 or more fatalities, Robert Johnston
  58. ^ a b Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World, Bruce Schneier, pg 240
  59. ^ International Development Policy: Religion and Development, Gilles Carbonnier, page 194
  60. ^ Understanding Terrorism: Challenges, Perspectives, and Issues, Gus Martin, SAGE, 2010
  61. ^ Parithy, one of Sri Maha Bodhi attackers, Sunday Observer
  62. ^ Lest we forget the LTTE, The Island, K. Godage
  63. ^ LTTE Terrorist Attacks Selected Chronology (since 1987), Victor Gunasekara
  64. ^ Kattankudy Muslims commemorate Tiger massacre in mosques, Sunday Observer
  65. ^ 103 killed in Sri Lankan bomb attack,
  66. ^ Understanding Civil Wars: Continuity and Change in Intrastate Conflict, Edward Newman, page 144
  67. ^ When Counterinsurgency Wins: Sri Lanka's Defeat of the Tamil Tigers , Ahmed S. Hashim
  68. ^ a b c Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (aka Tamil Tigers) (Sri Lanka, separatists), Council on Foreign Relations
  69. ^ Patrick Harrigan interviews Swami Siva-Kalki, The Sunday Times, August 19, 1990
  70. ^ Attrocities of Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) or Peoples' Liberation Front, TCHR
  71. ^ Special Task Force- History, Sri Lanka Police
  72. ^ STF War Heroes commemorated, Daily News
  73. ^ a b Bandarage, Asoka (2009). The Separatist Conflict in Sri Lanka: Terrorism, Ethnicity, Political Economy.  
  74. ^ Hughes, Dhana. Violence, Torture and Memory in Sri Lanka: Life After Terror.  
  75. ^ Mukarji, Apratim (2005). Sri Lanka: A Dangerous Interlude. New Dawn Press. p. 71.  
  76. ^ Grant, Trevor (2014).  
  77. ^ a b Somasundaram, Daya (2012). "Short and Long Term Effects on the Victims of Terror in Sri Lanka". In Danieli, Yael; Brom, Danny; Sills, Joe. The Trauma of Terrorism: Sharing Knowledge and Shared Care, An International Handbook.  
  78. ^ Kleinfeld, Margo (2004). "Strategic Trooping in Sri Lanka: September Eleventh and the Consolidation of Political Position". In Brunn, Stanley D. 11 September and Its Aftermath: The Geopolitics of Terror.  
  79. ^ Dwivedi, Manan (2009). South Asia Security. Kalpaz Publications. p. 170.  
  80. ^ a b  
  81. ^ a b  
  82. ^ a b Rajasingham, K. T. "Chapter 16: 'Honorable wounds of war'". Sri Lanka: The Untold Story. 
  83. ^ a b Rajasingham, K. T. "Chapter 17: Assassination of Bandaranaike". Sri Lanka: The Untold Story. 
  84. ^ a b c d e f Heingo. "Ramifications of banning political parties and organisations". Retrieved 26 June 2015. 
  85. ^ "Peace talks team for Thailand finalised: Government lifts LTTE proscription". Daily News. 5 September 2002. Retrieved 11 February 2009. 
  86. ^ Government Information Department (7 January 2009). "LTTE is banned by the SL Govt: with immediate effect". Ministry of Defence, Government of Sri Lanka. Retrieved 9 February 2009. 
  87. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Jeyaraj, D.B.S. """Govt Wants to Review Ban on Tamil Diaspora Organizations Listed as "Terrorists. Retrieved 29 June 2015. 
  88. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "PART I : SECTION (I) — GENERAL Government Notifications THE UNITED NATIONS ACT. No. 45 OF 1968 List of Designated persons, groups & entities under paragraph 4(2) of the United Nations Regulations No. 1 of 20" (PDF).  

External links

  • South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP)
  • Massacres of Innocent Civilians by LTTE Terrorists,
  • Sri Lanka State Terror: Disappearances & Extra Judicial Killings, Tamil Nation
  • Introducing State Crime in Sri Lanka, International State Crime Initiative, Queen Mary University of London
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