Sample International Relations Paper on Tamil Tigers

Tamil Tigers


The concept of violence among humans has existed for many centuries and has in different ways contributed to the current animosity between various groups.  However, the ideology of modern terrorism originated from the French revolution and has over the years evolved to take various forms. Some of the recent conflicts that have been categorized as extremism include Israeli- Palestinian conflict, the Russian invasion of Afghanistan (Mills, 2018).  Notably, the Robespierre in 1793 that had presided the French revolution has been documented to have laid the foundation for this ideology. Understandably, the group believed that through violence, they could develop better systems that could support the rights of all the members of the society.

With the recent developments in different parts of the globe, many groups using the same techniques have emerged and have caused significant destruction in areas such as economic development, political stability, and international relations. Consequently, non-state terrorism was first experienced in the 1950s and it included ethnic nationalism against colonialists.  In the 1990s, international terrorism was first experienced with the emergence of groups such as al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Hamas that carried out its activities in continents such as Africa, America, and Europe (Six-Hohenbalken & Weiss, 2016). As such, this study is going to discuss the operations of Tamil Tigers that had performed various terrorist activities in different parts of the globe. Particularly, it will assess the structure and leadership of the organization, their ideologies, religious and political motivations that promoted the expansion of their activities. Moreover, the research will investigate its area of operation, threats, strategies and its modern operations and how it has coped with the current development.

Background of Tamil Tigers

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) that was also referred to as the terminal tigers were established in 1976 under the leadership of  Velupillai Prabhakaran. The group had established different operating point in the country that not only advocated for the establishment of a separate state but also conducted raids on innocent residents.  Over the years of diversified operations and increase in manpower, the organization grew to be one of the most sophisticated terrorist groups in the world (Six-Hohenbalken & Weiss, 2016). Over the 1970s, the organization carried out several guerrilla attacks that against the Srilankan military that promoted violence in the country. Later in 1985, the terrorist group gained control of Jaffna, a town in northern part of the country. Additionally, due to its expanding population, the organization had to expand its funding options that included activities such as robbing banks and drug smuggling.

The effects of its activities were also felt by the neighboring states such as India which is 1985 deployed their military in Sri Lanka and helped in securing Jaffna back to the government (Mills, 2018).  However, the withdrawal of the Indian peacekeeping force in 1991 helped the group to regain its strength and initiating international operations.  The group was well organized with area commanders being responsible for making tactical decisions for over 10,000 members (Mills, 2018).  Understandably the organization had different wings that included the women military wing, arms procurement network, black tigers unit, leopard brigade and the research and development wins that had been tasked with various tasks.

Aims and Leadership

The primary aim for the formation of the Tamil Tigers was to promote equality among all the citizens of Sri-Lanka and to stop the oppression imposed by the government on the Tamil people. Equally, the group was also formed to help in the creation of a different state in the northern part of the country that according to the founders would help in enhancing unity among the Sri Lankan Tamils and other supporting groups such as the Indian Tamils, Muslims, and the Tamil Christians (Kruglanski et al., 2014).  This would not only increase the strength of the organization but also to help it advocate for change in policies implemented by the government but hindered the progress of the community.

LTTE leadership was divided into different wings including the military and the political wings and a central governing body that was headed by founder, Prabhakaran, monitored the activities of other sections of the group.  Considerably, the military wing was further classified into different subgroups such as the naval wing that was led by colonel Soosei, the air tigers, suicide bombers unit, the intelligence wing, and the elite fighters (Kruglanski et al., 2014).  The head of the organization was known as Vellupillai Prabhakaran while Pottu Amman was the leader of the intelligence unit of the group.  Similarly, Colonel Soosei headed the sea tigers and Balasingham Nadessan was the chief political advisor.

Tamil Tigers Ideological, Religious, Political Views and Motivations

The ideology of the group was primarily to promote specific cultural and religious practices in the governance of sri Lanka. Notably, it has been documented as one of the most rigid terrorist organizations in the world as it did not allow its members to take alcohol, smoke,  have sex or to have any other form of relationship with anybody outside the LTTE (Kruglanski et al., 2014).  Surprisingly, the organization treated women recruit the same way they treated men and gave them the opportunity to lead both in the political and battlefields.   However, the units were divided into gender units because of the different restrictions including premarital sex.

Although Sri Lanka was a diversified state that was occupied by different religions including Buddhist, Christians, Hindus and Muslims, the continued oppression on the Sinhalese community who were majorly Buddhists led to the formation of the LTTE. From a religious perspective, the organization was described by the government as a separatist group that had engaged in activities that did not represent the beliefs of any religious organizations. Surprisingly, the group had high ties with Christianity with some of its tops leaders including Tamil Selvam, Balraj, Pottu Amman and  Anton Balasingham were Christians. Politically, the leaders of the group advocated for the development of a different state in the northern part of Sri Lanka that would be governed by the Tamil laws and policies. Equally, it formed its political wing in 1989 under a party known as the people’s front of liberation tigers that was later registered in 2008.

Although its leadership often showed interest in talking with the government to solve the existing differences, its agreements always favored its ability to justify its positions that included disabling its competitors and rearming. Most of these discussions never bore any fruits with the government insisting on the dissolution of the group.  The motivations of the organization originated from different factors including the increase in the number of people that supported its cause, adequate amount of capital and support from other governments including the Norway government which spearheaded the negotiations.

Additionally, the group used the traditional guerrilla warfare method that helped its military to have an added advantage over the government’s forces. Equally, they had a centralized command system that not only helps in planning the operations but also developing mechanisms of increasing its control in establishing an independent state.   Most of the citizens were also motivated to enroll due to the idealism, the thrill of utilizing sophisticated weapons, the pride of being a member of the most powerful group, the powers of being a tiger and for revenge. Considerably, the ability of LTTE to provide the basic necessities such as food and clothing attracted people from poor backgrounds.

Organization’s Area of Operation, Strategies, Threats, Impacts and Current Status

Mostly, the organization carried out its activities in the northern part of Sri-Lanka was it aimed at establishing an independent state. Although the group started as a small organization, the drastic increase in the number of members helped it to have extended control over specific areas of the country such as Jaffna.  Indisputably, over the years the group spread to other states India was it was later listed as a terrorist group. In its operation, the organization was very organized and conducted extensive research before implementing any strategy.

The long-term plan of LTTE was to ensure that the Tamil people were treated equally as another member of the community and a subsequent establishment of a separate northern state. To achieve this, it based its operational methods on the desire of the people and to implement Tamil constitution in the proposed new state.  Moreover, the leadership of LTTE did not start a war based on the ideologies but ensured the organization was self-sufficient to run all its activities. Additionally, it capitalized on the mistakes of the government to increase its membership including starting charities and financing their operations. Similarly, the organization developed good relationship with other countries such as North Korea that sold them different weapons and explosives.

Consequently, the group also empowered women in the community through giving them a chance to have equal rights as their male counterparts through giving them a chance to serve in different spectrums including the military and political platforms. It also incorporated young adults in its military including teenagers. This helped in developing and nurturing their skills to become better servicemen. One of the threats facing the organization is its categorization as a terrorist group by more than 32 countries around the globe including the United States, Canada, UK, and Germany (Mills, 2018). Moreover, after the death of some of its executives, it lacks proper leadership and funding which has limited the intensity of their operations.

Currently, the recent developments have limited operations of the group. For instance, the death of their leader Prabhakaran had incapacitated the operations of the group. Therefore it currently has no powers in Sri Lanka as the government has taken over most of the areas that were being controlled by the terrorists.  Equally, the state authorities are also setting up measures to ensure that the remaining members do not regroup (Six-Hohenbalken & Weiss, 2016). However, the remaining colonels including Ram, Nagulan, and Jeyaram are still continuing with their activities in different parts of Amprai jungles. The three have been trying to reach out to other terrorist groups to help LTTE to get back on its feet.

Definition of Terrorism

Different international organizations have over the last three decades defined terrorism in distinct ways depending on the acts and effects they have on both humans and the environment. The United Nations general assembly defined it as criminal acts that are calculated and intended to initiate terror to either the general public or a specific group of the society for political reasons that are not justifiable.  Although the UN member states have not agreed on the standard definition of the word, they all condemn the ideology and the effects it has to the society.

On the other hand, the Arab convention for the suppression of terrorism defined it as threats that motivate the advancement of criminal agenda and sows panic or causes harm among people of a particular group or geographical area (Kruglanski et al., 2014). Notably, in 2004, the UN security council resolution termed it as a criminal act carried out against civilians with the intention of causing death,  taking hostage or serious injury to the body of the targeted persons so as to provoke a state of terror in that state.

Considerably, the United States federal criminal code explains the term as activities that involve life-threatening or violent acts that are abuse of the criminal laws of the United States and the actions appear to be intentional to intimidate or too coarse the civil population. Considering the activities of the LTTE in Sri Lanka and the other parts of the world the best definition to use the one provided by the  United States  Department Of  Defense that terms it as  the  calculated utilization of  unlawful  violence to inculcate fear or intimidation to the ruling government or the  society with the  pursuit of  changing the political, ideological or  religious organization of the region or to cause injury.

Effective Counter-Terrorism Strategies

After the effects of the LTTE in Sri-Lanka, the country has implemented different strategies that would help in reducing the effects brought about by the group and to avoid the formation. Considerably the government has enacted counter-terrorism laws that helped in isolating some of the militant groups. For instance, the prevention of Terrorism Act was designed to help the police in managing terrorist-related complications by giving them more powers to arrest and detain any perpetrators (Mills, 2018).  Additionally, the local authorities have developed mechanisms that help in educating its citizens on the importance of reporting cases of extremism and promoting unity among all the members of the society.

Furthermore, the police have enhanced investigative strategies to include community policing method that seeks to increase the relation between the societies.  Equally, the state has also enhanced its border security measures and improved on its political approach to the problem. Essentially, different special units including special task force, elite Special Forces, counterterrorism wing and counterinsurgency forces have also been established to help in enhancing security in the country


The formation and growth of Tamil Tigers can be linked with lack of proper political and security aspects of the country.  Additionally, proper leadership and finance enabled the group to increase its activities in the state and to recruit more members from the poor communities. The organization aimed at establishing a different state in the northern part of Sri Lanka that would be ruled by their ideologies that differed from the once advocated by the government.  However, Tamil Tigers lost its control over the north after the death of its leader and is currently reorganizing its activities through the help of other terrorist groups.




Kruglanski, A. W., Gelfand, M. J., Bélanger, J. J., Gunaratna, R., & Hettiarachchi, M. (2014). De-radicalising the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Prisons, Terrorism and Extremism: Critical Issues in Management, Radicalisation and Reform, 183. DOI: 10.4324/9780203584323

Mills, L. (2018). Why Does the Tigress Roar? Exploring the Role of Female Suicide Bombers in the LTTE. Retrieved from

Richards, J. (2014). An institutional history of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies-CCDP. Retrieved from

Six-Hohenbalken, M., & Weiss, N. (2016). Aesthetics of Martyrdom: The Celebration of Violent Death among the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. In Violence Expressed (pp. 83-100). Routledge. Retrieved from