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Tuesday, 26 November, 2002, 16:57 GMT
'Black Tigers' appear in public
Scene of suicide blast in Colombo in July 1999
Suicide bombers terrorised Colombo for years

Suicide bombers from the Tamil Tiger rebel group have appeared in public for the first time at a parade to commemorate fallen comrades in the civil war.

The Tamil Tigers pioneered the art of suicide bombing with scores of assassinations of prominent politicians in Sri Lanka, as well as former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Dressed in black uniforms with their heads masked to disguise their identities, 27 suicide bombers marched in parade along with other fighters.

Sri Lankan President Kumaratunga
Sri Lanka's president survived a Tiger attack
This was the first time the Black Tigers, as they are known, have taken part in the annual events to honour those who have died fighting in this two-decade-long war.

Speaking to the BBC, a member of the Tigers suicide squad explained why he had pledged to give his life.

He said he had seen his relatives killed and wanted to show his strength to safeguard not only his family but his community.

Refusing to give his name, the suicide bomber said he was not scared to die for the cause and although his parents did not know he was a member of the Black Tigers they would be proud of his achievements when his time came.

Suicide 'pioneers'

More than 240 Tamil men and women have carried out suicide attacks for the Tigers in this war, but this is the first time any have spoken with outsiders.

At sea, the Tigers have sent suicide bombers to ram boats packed with explosives into naval vessels, a tactic they believe other armed groups around the world are now copying from them.

And on land they are notorious for detonating suicide belts full of explosives in front of prime ministers and presidents.

The Tigers are now involved in a peace process with the Sri Lankan Government which is progressing fast - but it is not until the suicide squad appear unmasked with their faces showing in public that the war will truly be over.


Peace efforts

Background

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26 Nov 02 | South Asia
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