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Conflict in Sri Lanka

In 1948, Sri Lanka, then known as Ceylon, gained independence from the United Kingdom. This ended 152 years of British rule.

The new government was led by the Singhalese, who were the majority people in Ceylon. This upset the minority Tamil people. The Singhalese government adopted a series of policies which antagonised the Tamil community - such as making the Sinhala dialect the country's sole official language, controlling access to university and renaming the country Sri Lanka in 1972.

Tension grew around the country. In July 1983, 13 government soldiers were killed in an ambush by the 'Tamil Tigers', a guerrilla group calling itself the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LLTE). They demanded full independence for the country's Tamils, who make up about 18 percent of the country's population.

This started a 20-year ethnic civil war between the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan government. The brutal war led to the killing of an estimated 65,000 people and emigration of one million Sri Lankans. Another one million Sri Lankans fled their homes, most becoming internally displaced people.

The Tamil Tiger force is said to number about 10,000 and is equipped with sophisticated weaponry.

A permanent ceasefire has been in place since February 2002. The ceasefire talks were the result of growing international condemnation and pressure following the international crackdown on terrorism in 2001.

Fighting still breaks out occasionally and peace has not been secured. However, the two factions look closer to agreeing to a peaceful resolution. The Tamil Tigers are now asking for autonomy within a new government structure, instead of independence. As a result, internally displaced people are slowly returning to their villages.