Mavil Aru (Mother River) in Trincomalee District is a waterway that supplies water to regions of eastern Sri Lanka. On July 26, 2006, the LTTE blocked the sluice-gates, cutting the water supply to 15,000 villages in government-controlled areas. The LTTE claimed they were retaliating for the “random and indiscriminate” shelling of civilians in Muttur by Sri Lankan forces. The Sri Lankan Army (SLA) then attacked LTTE positions, and the gates were reopened on August 8. However, this incident, combined with the failure to renew a ceasefire agreement, prompted “Eelam War IV”, which turned out to be the last phase of the Civil War.
This lake is located next to Iyakachchi junction, 5kms north of Elephant pass, along the most strategic stretch of the A9 highway, main gateway to the North of the country. In 2000, Sea Tigers attacked and captured the SLA base at Iyakachchi which prompted an offensive on Elephant pass from three different sides.
The island of Punkudutivu was once agriculturally prosperous. The war lead to mass migration and a massive drop in population which has yet to recover. The rural island was also subject to two cases of violent rape-murder in 1999 and 2005. On both occasions Sri Lankan Navy sailors were the main suspects though no-one was charged with the crimes.
At the end of his trial, convicted and sentenced to death for the rape and murder of a Tamil school girl, Somaratna Rajapaksa, a Sri Lankan Army Lance Corporal said from the dock: “We didn’t kill anyone. We only buried bodies. We can show you where 300 to 400 bodies have been buried.” In 1999, fifteen bodies were exhumed near this location in Jaffna District, also known as Chemmani Mass Graves, before excavations were put to a halt. Seven arrests of military personnel were made in 2000, though all suspects were later released on bail. Further investigation has been pending ever since.
Silavathurai is a coastal town in Mannar District. It served as a base for the LTTE to smuggle arms and ammunition in from Tamil Nadu, India. The Sri Lankan Army captured the Sea Tiger base on September 2, 2007.
Prabhakaran, the leader of the LTTE, managed to evade Sri Lankan authorities for over 25 years. On May 19th 2009 the Sri Lankan Army at last got their man, retrieving his body after fighting on the banks of Nandikadal lagoon. The following day the civil war was officially over.
Jaffna fort was the scene of fierce fighting during the civil war. From 1986 to 1995 it was under control of the LTTE. During this period they purposefully destroyed a main wall to avoid the fort once again becoming a stronghold if recaptured by the Sri Lankan Army.
The ruins are those of the Doric Bungalow, the residence of the first British Governor of Ceylon. The white pillar-like monument stands in the place of a lighthouse destroyed during the war.
The last months of the war alone created 350.000 internally displaced people (IDPs). Since the end of the war, the Government, with the help of foreign investment, has rebuilt housing in areas most affected by the war. Convincing the IDPs to return is not proving easy and many villages remain mostly empty.
This particular housing project in Mannar District was funded by Kuwait. However, poor planning lead to the village being built on terrain that is regularly flooded for three months a year during monsoon. During this period most people leave the village and live elsewhere with family members. Others do not have the option to relocate and must brave the conditions. In total, approximately 30% of the houses here remain empty all year round. There is a small shop and mosque. The nearest school is a kilometre away.
Muttur, a town on the southern side on Trincomalee District, came under siege from government forces in 2006. A few days after the fighting, the bodies of seventeen employees of the NGO ‘Action Contre Faim’ were discovered. Sixteen of the deceased were Tamils and the other Muslim. The organisation University Teachers for Human Rights named government forces responsible for the murders.
The Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Navaly, Jaffna peninsula, was the site of the ‘Navaly Church Bombing’ that took place on July 9, 1995. At this time, the SLA were on the offensive to recapture Jaffna peninsula. The military had also distributed leaflets encouraging the Tamil civilians to seek refuge in places of worship as to avoid civilian casualties. The Church, where several hundred Tamil civilians were taking shelter, was bombed by Sri Lankan military aircraft. There were 65 immediate casualties and over 150 injured. According to a Human Rights report the figure rose to 125 killed.
Meera Jumma Mosque is one of the four mosques in Kattankudy that was attacked by LTTE cadres on August 3, 1990. The cadres, disguised as Muslims, entered the Mosques during the Friday Isha prayers and killed 147 men and boys with automatic guns and grenades.
On September 9, 1990, fifty commandos of the Sri Lankan Army rounded up 184 civilians in the village of Sathurukondan. They were taken to the nearby army camp, attacked and burnt with tires. There were 47 children, 85 women and 28 old persons among the deceased. A judge found three captains responsible and urged the President to act. Until this day no action has been taken against the alleged perpetrators.
Post box junction in Jaffna is the site of the ‘Four Four Bravo Ambush’ that took place on July 23, 1983. The LTTE were looking to avenge the death of Charles Lucas Anthony aka Seelan, a leading member of the LTTE who had recently been killed by the SLA. That night, patrol Four Four Bravo, a detachment consisting of 15 soldiers, was ambushed by 25 LTTE men, including Velupillai Prabhakaran, leader of the terrorist group. The patrol which was travelling in a jeep and a half-truck was forced to slow down at the junction due to road obstructions caused by the installation of telecommunication equipment. The LTTE set off mines that had been placed there and followed the attack with hand grenades and machine gun fire. In total twelve SLA soldiers and one officer were killed whilst the LTTE suffered one casualty. This incident sparked the Black July riots of 1983 considered by many as the start of the Sri Lankan Civil War.
On June 11, 1990, at about 6am, LTTE surrounded Batticaloa Police Station and abducted three policemen as well as getting hold of an arsenal of weaponry. About an hour later, around 250 LTTE cadres occupied the Police Station. They then ordered all Police Stations in the Eastern Province to be vacated or face the consequences. The Inspector General of Police gave in, and 889 officers were abducted, with approximately 125 managing to escape. Those that gave in were then lined up with their hands tied behind their backs and shot dead. In all, 600 to 774 officers were killed.
This unused advertising board is located near Navatkuli bridge, the most southern connection between Jaffna town and the rest of the island. In 1995, with Jaffna under attack from government forces, an estimated half-a-million Tamils crossed the bridge fleeing their cultural capital, heading to Killinochchi in the Vanni, or further to the north of Jaffna peninsula.
It is also near this road, in 1987, that Malathi became the first female LTTE soldier to die in combat. She had been badly injured in combat and as per orders, took the vial of cyanide before being captured. She was subsequently revered as the first female martyr. The LTTE portrayed themselves as a gender equal organisation.
This land is part of a prawn farm owned by Serendip Seafood Limited, on the outskirts of Kokkadichcholai village in Batticaloa district. On January 27, 1987, Special Task Force officers of the Sri Lankan Police, who were under the suspicion that the farm was being used as a base for militant Tamil groups, gathered up the employees, took them to a nearby junction, and shot them dead. The bodies were later burned on piles of tires. Seven of the victims were boys aged 12 to 14 and there were 83 casualties in total. The government denied the massacre took place. The managing director and executive director however not only confirmed the opposite, but also stated that none of the victims were terrorists.
The Eastern University is located close to the city of Batticaloa. SLA personnel had been terrorising nearby villages, prompting 45,000 civilians to take refuge on the university campus. On September 5, 1990 SLA personnel entered the campus and selected 158 youths from the camp to get into two buses. They were never seen again and presumed dead.
Puthukkudiyiruppu junction in Mullaitivu district was heavily fought over during the final months of the war as it represented a strategic military position along the A35. The first safety zone was just north along the A35 and the second safety zone, east of the town.
On the night of May 13, 2006 thirteen people were killed and several injured in the villages of Allaipiddy, Puliyankoodal, and Vangalady on the small island of Kayts in Jaffna district. The LTTE and the government accused each other of committing the massacre. The International Crisis Group identified the Sri Lankan Navy and the Eelam People’s Democratic Party as the most likely culprits. The local human rights group University Teachers for Human Rights and Amnesty International corroborated the findings. Despite these reports, the investigation into the murders never progressed.
During the war, the LTTE built ‘Heroes Cemeteries’ in the North and East for the deceased Tigers. After the war ended, the government systematically destroyed all of them, sometimes using the land to build army bases on. They also banned Maaveerar Naal, a Remembrance Day observed by Sri Lankan Tamils to mourn the deaths of LTTE militants. With the current government more open to dialogue with Tamils, there is increasing demand to have the cemeteries restored, albeit without visible ties to the LTTE itself.
This cemetery is known as Chatty Thuyilum Illam and is located on the island of Kayts in Jaffna district.
Kanagapuram Thuyilum Illam, situated in the outskirts of Kilinochchi, is another LTTE cemetery that Tamils are demanding to be restored. Kilinochchi was the administrative hub of the LTTE from 1998 until the end of the war in 2009.
These are the grounds of the home where Velupillai Prabhakaran, founder and leader of the LTTE, grew up. The Sri Lankan army destroyed the home located in Valvettithurai, Jaffna district, in 2010, one year after the end of the civil war.
Most monuments linked to the LTTE have been destroyed by the government since the end of the war.
The Muhamalai Forward Defence Line in Kilinochchi district was the Army Defence Line separating the Sri Lankan Army and the LTTE. The area was amongst the most heavily mined in the country, and Sri Lanka one of the most heavily mined countries in the world.
By mid-January 2009, the LTTE had lost Killinochchi to the SLA and were retreating. President Rajapaksa’s government were set for a final offensive and declared a series of safety zones where the estimated 400,000 displaced civilians could seek refuge. By the time the last safety zone had been declared, all foreign media and most NGOs had left as the government could not ensure their safety. After the EU had labelled the LTTE a terrorist organisation in 2006, the Tigers had already requested EU observers leave. The SLA has since been accused of killing thousands of civilians during the final months of the war, with some reports quoting 100,000 casualties and accusing government forces of deliberately targeting hospitals in the no-fire zone.
The LTTE were also accused of being complicit in the suffering of the Tamils they were supposedly representing. There are accusations they shot at Tamil civilians fleeing the killing fields in order to give themselves up to the government forces. The LTTE also lead a violent conscription of children and teenagers to join them as labourers and fighters. As they were approaching the brink of collapse, their methods became more and more desperate and Tamil civilians were being used as shields by the rebels in a war that the government were equally desperate and determined to end once and for all. There is still no figure for the dead and nearly 10 years on, the UN Human Rights Council has yet to make significant progress.
The wreckage at sea are the remains of Farah III, a Jordanian ship heading to South Africa from India with a cargo of rice that was captured by the LTTE in December 2006. The crew were safely handed over to Red Cross, but the LTTE kept the entire cargo. The LTTE Sea Tigers then used it as an operational centre right until it was captured by the troops of the 58 Division of the Sri Lankan Army on May 14, 2009. After the end of the war, it briefly became one of the many sites of ‘war tourism’ for the Sinhalese before the government opted to destroy all remnants of LTTE operations.
Elephant Pass controls access from mainland Sri Lanka to Jaffna peninsula and was therefore one of the most strategic stretches of road during the war. Despite a prolonged attack by the LTTE in 1991 during which they suffered heavy losses, it remained under control of the government until April 22, 2000, when the Tigers managed to gain control of the valued stretch of the A9 road. Only in January of 2009, in the final stages of the war, did the SLA manage to capture pass once more.
In June 1987, the SLA captured Nelliady College in Jaffna district and transformed it into a military base. On July 5, 1987 the LTTE filled a truck with explosives, which Captain Miller steered towards the main school building causing it to explode. Scores of soldiers were killed, estimates ranging from 17 to 55. Miller was the first LTTE suicide bomber and his face was on the insignia of the Black Tigers, the LTTE’s suicide wing.
When the tsunami struck Sri Lanka in 2004, the SLA and LTTE were two years into a strenuous cease fire. The natural disaster represented an opportunity to push the opposing sides to work together in the rebuilding of coastal territories. The flood of post-war tsunami aid money, and the LTTE’s control of portions of northern and eastern Sri Lanka meant they could dictate terms to aid agencies and eventually set up the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO). The TRO was later revealed to be an LTTE fundraising front that took in tens of millions of dollars which were diverted to the rebels’ coffers for building up an arsenal.
This memorial is located in the town of Muttur, Trincomalee district.
On June 2, 1987, twenty armed LTTE cadres ambushed a bus carrying young novice Buddhist monks, their mentor and four civilians in Ampara district. They ordered the driver to head to the nearby Aranthalawa jungle where they proceeded to massacre everyone on board. Thirty young monks were killed in the attack. The attack is considered one of the most brutal of the civil war due to the age of the deceased and their status as Theravada monks which prohibits them from defending themselves.
The sun sets over Mullaitivu, which became the main military base of the LTTE once captured it in 1996. By the end of Eelam IV, the final phase of the Civil War, Mullaitivu was the last stronghold of the LTTE. The Battle for the town lasted from January 2 to January 25, 2009 with the SLA victorious. This defeat more or less spelled the end of the war with the LTTE having now lost 95% of its territory.
Vadamarachchi lagoon in Jaffna district is the territory where the first conventional warfare engagement on Sri Lankan soil took place since the end of British colonial rule. The SLA carried out an offensive in May-June of 1987 to recapture the land from the LTTE.