In the latest bout of violence Sri Lanka has seen since the ceasefire broke in January, 27 Tamil Tiger rebels and two government soldiers have been killed on the frontlines of their brutal civil war. This bloodshed coincides with an attack on a journalist and a British High Commission official from unknown assailants. The country's situation isn't often the lead story on Countdown but the mounting death toll makes it impossible to ignore.
Part of the reason for the media's silence is that it's a country that's not only dangerous for its citizens, but the media trying to report on the situation. The recent attack of a journalist has led the World Association of Newspapers to rank as Sri Lanka the third deadliest country for journalists. (Iraq and Somalia are ranked 1 and 2 respectively.) Though a reward has been offered for the assailants, media groups have said the government has failed to catch anyone. This year alone, a total of 12 journalists have been attacked including one who was hacked to death. To see the factions behind the violence, read more.
Sri Lanka has been engaged in civil strife for almost three decades and with no end in sight. Like most civil wars, economic disparity, which favored one segment of the population is at the heart of the conflict. During the British colonization, the Tamil minority in the north and east held favored positions and were often used as laborers to produce one of their greatest export products: tea. But once Sri Lanka declared its independence from Great Britain, the Buddhist Sinhalese fomented ethnic division until the 1980s, when civil war officially erupted.
The Tamil Tigers formed in the early 1970s and have since formed one of the fiercest rebel forces to have appeared in modern, guerilla warfare. When the Tamil Tigers lost most of their agricultural livelihood after the the Sinhalese majority took control, they faced devastating economic and social discrimination, which has given them little choice but to rebel.
The Tigers are given intense military training including physical rigors as well as ideological indoctrination. Upon graduation from training, they're given a cyanide capsule to wear around their neck to avoid being captured alive. Their attacks on villagers are renown for their overt and brutal violence. In one 1999 attack, they were accused of hacking to death an entire village including women and children.
To date, the violence has been responsible for the deaths of more than 70,000 people out of a population of 19.3 million — not including the 30,000 people who were killed during the tsunami in 2004. There was a ceasefire and a political agreement between the Tamil Tigers and the government in 2002 — but in 2006 amid rising violence, which caused the deaths of hundreds on both sides, war was resumed.