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Saturday, 18 December, 1999, 21:56 GMT
Analysis: Fifteen years of bloodshed

attack scene The president was wounded in one attack

By Alastair Lawson of the BBC's South Asia regional unit

The bomb blasts on Saturday at different election rallies attended by the Sri Lankan president and opposition leader are the latest in a series of incidents over the last 15 years in which the country's leaders have been targeted.

Conflict in Sri Lanka
  • An unwinnable war?
  • Timeline of conflict
  • Leading the Tigers
  • The ethnic divide
  • The latest attacks also come at a crucial stage in the ongoing civil war against the Tamil Tigers, who have been accused of killing prime ministers, opposition leaders and military chiefs.

    In May 1993, the security forces accused them of killing the president, Ranasinghe Premadasa.

    He was shot two years after the former Indian Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, was killed in a suicide bombing attack blamed on the Tamil Tigers, and one year after the Sri Lankan navy commander was blown up.

    funeral The Tigers were accused of killing President Ranasinghe Premadasa.
    In October 1994, the Tigers were blamed for the killing the opposition leader, Gamini Dissanayake.

    Although the Tigers deny they carried out many of these attacks, the fact is that the security operation surrounding the country's leaders has been breached on numerous occasions.

    Although both the president and opposition leader survived Saturday's attacks, there will inevitably be questions asked as to how it was that President Kumaratunga's safety was so seriously compromised.

    Professional fighters

    Part of the answer to that might lie in the fact that the The Tamil Tigers are widely regarded as one of the most well organised, highly motivated and disciplined guerrilla groups in the world.

    Although numerically far inferior to the Sri Lankan army, they are at times more than a guerrilla group practising hit-and-run tactics.

    blast Most attacks have been blamed on Tamil Tigers
    Evidence of that can be clearly seen by the large territorial gains made recently by the guerrillas in the north of the island.

    The latest violence comes at a critical stage in the island's civil war.

    President Kumaratunga is pursuing a dual strategy: The defeat of the Tamil Tigers militarily, coupled with a constitutional settlement that would give more autonomy to Tamil majority areas of Sri Lanka.

    Although she has personally supervised this approach - she also holds the post of defence minister - both objectives will be difficult to achieve.

    To implement a constitutional settlement the president knows its necessary to neuter the Tamil Tigers: And despite the loss of around 10,000 troops during her stint as president they remain a force to be reckoned with

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    See also:
    17 Dec 99 |  South Asia
    Chandrika Kumaratunga: Politics in the blood
    10 Nov 99 |  Talking Point
    Can there be peace in Sri Lanka?
    17 Dec 99 |  South Asia
    Ranil Wickramasinghe: The opposition's hope
    16 Nov 99 |  South Asia
    Sri Lanka battle lines drawn

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