Attrition: Growing Casualties in Sri Lanka

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April 30, 2006: After several years of uneasy ceasefire, the war in Sri Lanka appears to have revived. In the first 120 days of 2006, 277 people have died in rebel (the Tamil LTTE) related violence. About 44 percent of the dead were LTTE, with 28 percent soldiers and police and the rest civilians. In all of 2005, LTTE violence left only 330 dead, of which about half were civilians. In 2004, total dead were only 108. The problem has been a civil war within the LTTE, plus flagging support for the war in the Tamil community (about 18 percent of the 19 million people on the island.) The hard core LTTE want to partition the island, turning the northern and eastern coast into a Tamil state. More moderate Tamils will settle for some autonomy. So the hard core LTTE have increasingly been using terror, and often fatal force, to keep Tamils in line, and drive non-Tamils out of "Tamil territory."

Since the ceasefire went into effect in February, 2002, there have been over 5,000 ceasefire violations. Most of these had to do with LTTE terrorism, and the growing civil war within the LTTE itself. Despite all this, the LTTE has an armed and trained force of some 5,000 men (and some women.) Many of the LTTE troops are teenagers, enticed to join, or kidnapped, and indoctrinated to be very effective fighters. Thus the losses of the last four years have not seriously hurt them. What the violence has damages has been morale, and this may prove decisive if the fighting continues to escalate.

 


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