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Tuesday, 24 July, 2001, 13:50 GMT 14:50 UK
Analysis: Tamil Tigers' strategic target
Tamil Tigers
The Tigers are fighting for a separate state in the north
By South Asia analyst Alastair Lawson

The daring attack by the Tamil Tigers on Colombo's international airport is the latest in a series of strikes on key infrastructure targets.

Bomb attack
The rebels target key installations and people
In the past 10 years, prime ministers, opposition leaders, hotels and key electricity installations have all been targeted by the Tigers, who are one of the world's most highly trained and motivated rebel groups.

The airport is a high-profile target designed to attract maximum publicity.

But with a few exceptions, the rebels have refrained from attacking foreigners.

International support

The Tiger leadership has always maintained that their dispute is only with the Sri Lankan Government and security forces.

They have been careful to try and win international support for their cause, especially because there is a large Tamil expatriate population in many western countries including the UK, Australia, the United States and Canada.

Although foreigners were caught up in the latest violence, it looks as if the rebels are still sticking to this strategy.

Their targets appear to have been only Sri Lankan aircraft.

Although many western countries are likely to condemn what they see as the recklessness of the rebels, the Tigers - who have yet to comment publicly on the attack - will probably maintain that foreigners were not specifically targeted.

Timing

Arguably more significant is the timing of this attack, which comes amid signs that peace negotiations brokered by Norway are on the verge of breaking down.

Weeping relatives
Attempts to end the war have so far failed
For the last 18 years the rebels have been fighting a full-scale war against the Sri Lankan military in the north and east of the country, which they want to become an independent state.

Both the rebels and the government continue to fight and dialogue between them is minimal.

Efforts to find a solution have also been set back because of political deadlock between the government and the main opposition party.

With the peace process in abeyance, both the government and the rebels appear to be avidly pursuing the military option, as the strikes by the Sri Lankan air force on Tamil Tiger positions immediately after the airport attack clearly show.

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See also:

24 Jul 01 | South Asia
Sri Lanka hits back at rebels
24 Jul 01 | UK
'All hell broke loose'
01 Jul 01 | South Asia
Senior Tamil Tiger killed
05 Jun 01 | South Asia
Tamil Tiger ambush kills six
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