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1995: Jaffna falls to Sri Lankan army
Sri Lankan troops have driven the Tamil Tiger guerrillas out of their heartland capital of Jaffna after a 49-day operation.

The deputy defence minister, Lieutenant Colonel Anuruddha Ratwatte, raised the Sri Lankan flag in the northern city at noon, marking a major success in the 12-year civil war with the Tigers.

Senior officers at the ceremony emphasised it was a victory over the rebel guerrillas and not the Tamil community. The government is urging the 400,000 Tamil civilians displaced by the recent fighting to return to their homes.

The government's war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Sri Lanka has cost nearly 40,000 lives since the conflict began in July 1983.

Jungle control

Lt Col Ratwatte said the offensive would continue: "This is not the end of the war. Very soon we will totally defeat and annihilate separatist terrorists."

The BBC's Colombo correspondent, George Arney, said the fall of Jaffna would be a "real blow" to the rebels.

"Jaffna town was really the heartland of what was effectively a Tamil state in northern Sri Lanka. They ran the police force, the law courts and more importantly the taxation services.

"They were collecting tax from the people there to fund the war. Also of course it was a pool for recruits."

Despite the success of Operation Riviresa - or Sunshine - in securing the city, the rebels still control large areas of the Jaffna peninsula and can operate freely in the jungles of north and east Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan military has also suffered the loss of 450 soldiers and two-thirds of its air force during the campaign.

It is thought Sri Lanka's President, Chandrika Kumaratunga, will continue to try to engage the Tamil Tigers in peace negotiations.

The president has recently repeated her offer to give them greater autonomy in the north and east of the country.

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Refugees flee Jaffna
Up to half a million Tamils have fled the fighting in the past seven weeks



In Context
The LTTE was formed in 1976 in response to increasing tensions between Tamils and the Sinhalese majority.

In 1983, 13 soldiers were killed in an LTTE ambush. Several hundred Tamils died in the subsequent anti-Tamil riots and the civil war began.

Tamil attacks continued after the fall of Jaffna and a ceasefire was not agreed until the 2002 peace talks in Norway, when the government and rebels agreed to share power. But rising levels of violence brought an end to the truce in January 2008.

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