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Terrorism expert Rohan Guneratne
"The element of sacrifice is demonstrated in suicide attacks"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 7 June, 2000, 09:26 GMT 10:26 UK
Sri Lanka's deadly bombers
Aftermath of suicide attack
Suicide bombers have struck since the beginning of the war
By South Asia analyst Alastair Lawson

Suicide bombings have taken place in the Sri Lankan civil war ever since it began in the early 1980s.

Perhaps the most well-known incident is when the Tamil Tigers were accused of using the tactic to kill the former Indian prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, in 1991.

Two years later, a suicide bomber killed President Ranasinghe Premadasa at a rally.

But suicide bombers have arguably been most devastating when trucks laden with explosives have been used to ram key installations.

Targets

This first happened in 1986, when a suicide bomber in the Jaffna Peninsula drove a lorry into an army camp and killed around 150 people.


Bomb victim
A victim of a suicide attack in Colombo earlier this year
Ten years later, the Tamil Tigers drove a truck filled with explosives into the central bank in Colombo, killing more than 90 people.

In 1998, a suicide bomber devastated Sri Lanka's holiest Buddhist shrine, the Temple of the Tooth, in the town of Kandy.

Ideological motives

Some commentators argue that unlike many suicide bombings in the Middle East, attacks in Sri Lanka are carried out for ideological rather than religious motives.

They say that the rebel leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, runs a highly-disciplined organisation in which suicide attacks are seen as a vital part of the struggle to establish an independent Tamil state.

It is argued that this cause - rather than religious martyrdom - which provides the motivation for such attacks.

It is unclear whether the current spate of suicide bombings is in any way linked to increasingly belligerent statements made against the Tamil Tigers by President Kumaratunga.

Before December's attacks, the last suicide bombing took place in July when a moderate Tamil politician was killed.

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18 Dec 99 | South Asia
Analysis: Fifteen years of bloodshed
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