September 23, 2008

Timeline: Sri Lanka

A chronology of key events:

Fifth century BC - Indo-Aryan migrants from northern India settle on the island; the Sinhalese emerge as the most powerful of the various clans.

Third century BC - Beginning of Tamil migration from India.

1505 - Portuguese arrive in Colombo, marking beginning of European interest.

1815 - British become first European power to win control over whole island, known as Ceylon. Start bringing in Tamil labourers from southern India to work tea, coffee and coconut plantations.

1833 - English made official language.

1931 - British grant the right to vote and introduce power sharing.

1948 - Ceylon gains full independence.

Sinhala nationalism

1949 - Indian Tamil plantation workers disenfranchised.

1956 - Solomon Bandaranaike elected on wave of Sinhalese nationalism. Sinhala made sole official language and other measures introduced to bolster Sinhalese and Buddhist feeling. More than 100 Tamils killed in widespread violence after Tamil parliamentarians protest at new laws.

1958 - Anti-Tamil riots leave more than 200 people dead. Thousands of Tamils displaced.

1959 - Bandaranaike assassinated by a Buddhist monk. Succeeded by widow, Srimavo, who continues nationalisation programme.

1965 - Opposition United National Party wins elections and attempts to reverse nationalisation measures.

1970 - Srimavo Bandaranaike returns to power and extends nationalisation programme.

Ethnic tensions

1971 - Sinhalese Marxist uprising led by students and activists.

1972 - Ceylon changes its name to Sri Lanka and Buddhism given primary place as country's religion, further antagonising Tamil minority.

1976 - Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) formed as tensions increase in Tamil-dominated areas of north and east.

1977 - Separatist Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) party wins all seats in Tamil areas. Anti-Tamil riots leave more than 100 Tamils dead.

1981 - Sinhala policemen accused of burning the Jaffna Public Library, causing further resentment in Tamil community.

1983 - 13 soldiers killed in LTTE ambush, sparking anti-Tamil riots leading to the deaths of an estimated several hundred Tamils. Start of what Tigers call "First Eelam War".

Civil war intensifies

1985 - First attempt at peace talks between government and LTTE fails.

1987 - Government forces push LTTE back into northern city of Jaffna. Government signs accords creating new councils for Tamil areas in north and east and reaches agreement with India on deployment of Indian peace-keeping force.

1988 - Left-wing and nationalist Sinhalese JVP begins campaign against Indo-Sri Lankan agreement.

1990 - Indian troops leave after getting bogged down in fighting in north. Violence between Sri Lankan army and separatists escalates. "Second Eelam War" begins.
Thousands of Muslims are expelled from northern areas by the LTTE.

1991 - LTTE implicated in assassination of Indian premier Rajiv Gandhi in southern India.

War and diplomacy

1993 - President Premadasa killed in LTTE bomb attack.

1994 - President Kumaratunga comes to power pledging to end war. Peace talks opened with LTTE.

1995 - "Third Eelam War" begins when rebels sink naval craft.

1995-2001 - War rages across north and east. Tigers bomb Sri Lanka's holiest Buddhist site. President Kumaratunga is wounded in a bomb attack. Suicide attack on the international airport destroys half the Sri Lankan Airlines fleet.

Peace moves

2002 February - Government and Tamil Tiger rebels sign a Norwegian-mediated ceasefire.
De-commissioning of weapons begins; the road linking the Jaffna peninsula with the rest of Sri Lanka reopens after 12 years; passenger flights to Jaffna resume. Government lifts ban on Tamil Tigers. Rebels drop demand for separate state.

2003 Tigers pull out of talks. Ceasefire holds.

2003 May - Country's worst-ever floods leave more than 200 people dead and drive some 4,000 people from their homes.

2004 March - Renegade Tamil Tiger commander, known as Karuna, leads split in rebel movement and goes underground with his supporters. Tiger offensive regains control of the east.

2004 July - Suicide bomb blast in Colombo - the first such incident since 2001.

2004 December - More than 30,000 people are killed when massive waves, generated by a powerful undersea earthquake off the coast of Indonesia, devastate coastal communities.

2005 June - Row over deal reached with Tamil Tiger rebels to share nearly $3bn in tsunami aid among Sinhalas, Tamils and Muslims.

2005 August - State of emergency after foreign minister is killed by a suspected Tiger assassin.

2005 November - Mahinda Rajapakse, prime minister at the time, wins presidential elections. Most Tamils in areas controlled by the Tamil Tigers do not vote.

Mounting violence

2006 February - Government and Tamil Tiger rebels declare their respect for the 2002 ceasefire at talks in Geneva.

2006 April - Explosions and rioting in Trincomalee, in the north-east, leave 16 people dead. Police blame Tamil Tiger rebels for the blasts, which come amid a marked escalation in deadly violence.

A suicide bomber attacks the main military compound in Colombo, killing at least eight people. The military launch air strikes on Tamil Tiger targets.

2006 May - Tamil Tiger rebels attack a naval convoy near Jaffna. International monitors describe the deadly attack as a "gross violation" of the 2002 ceasefire.

2006 June - 64 people are killed in a mine attack on a bus in Anuradhapura district. Days later, more than 30 people are killed in a land and sea battle between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels.

2006 August - Tamil Tiger rebels and government forces clash in the north-east. It is the worst fighting since the 2002 ceasefire. Hundreds of people are killed and the UN says tens of thousands have fled their homes.

2006 September - The government says it has pushed Tamil Tiger rebels from the mouth of strategic Trincomalee harbour. This is seen as the first major capture of enemy territory by either side since a 2002 ceasefire.

2006 October - A suicide bomber attacks a military convoy, killing more than 90 sailors.
Tamil Tigers attack a naval base in Galle, the southern city frequented by tourists.
Peace talks resume in Geneva but fail.

2007 January - After weeks of heavy fighting the military says it has captured the Tamil Tiger stronghold of Vakarai, in the east. Tens of thousands of civilians flee the area.
President Mahinda Rajapakse's government secures a long-elusive parliamentary majority after 25 opposition MPs defect to its ranks.
Italian and US ambassadors are slightly hurt as rebels shell a delegation of diplomats touring eastern areas.

2007 March - Government troops claim continuing success in clearing eastern coastal areas of rebels. Thousands of civilians flee the fighting.
Tamil Tigers launch their first confirmed air raid, hitting a military base next to the international airport.

2007 April - Two international airlines suspend flights to Sri Lanka following another air raid by Tamil Tigers.

2007 May - Tourism slumps because of fighting.

2007 June - Police force hundreds of Tamils out of the capital, citing security concerns, but a court orders an end to the expulsions.

2007 July - Government declares it has driven rebels from Thoppigala - their last jungle stronghold in the east.

2007 October - Eight aircraft destroyed, 30 people killed in Tamil Tiger attack on Anuradhapura air force base.

2007 November - Sixteen killed in a bomb attack in Colombo.

2008 January - Government pulls out of 2002 ceasefire agreement.
Government minister DM Dassanayake dies after a roadside bomb attack on his convoy in Colombo.
Ceasefire expires.
Roadside bomb hits a civilian bus in the central district of Moneragala, killing 24.

2008 March - International panel, invited by the government to monitor investigations into alleged human rights abuses, announces that it is leaving the country. Panel member Sir Nigel Rodley says the authorities were hindering its work. Government rejects the criticism.

2008 April - Highways Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle is killed in a blast blamed on Tamil Tiger rebels.
Dozens of soldiers reported killed in clashes with Tamil Tigers in far north.

2008 July - Sri Lankan military says it has captured the important Tamil Tiger naval base of Vidattaltivu in the north of the island.

2008 September - Sri Lankan military continues to inch towards Killinochi. President Rajapaksa and his Government have convinced the Sinhala majority, that by capturing the rebel base, they would end the war.

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