Sri Lanka: Endless War?

Sri Lanka is a byword for beauty and tragedy. Even the wholesale devastation of the Asian tsunami was not enough to halt a 25-year civil war between an ethnic Sinhalese-dominated government and a notorious separatist group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, also known as the Tamil Tigers. But lately momentum appears to have swung decisively in favor of the government. An international crackdown on LTTE fundraising and smuggling networks, a series of high-level defections and some key strategic gains have made the group vulnerable. Recognizing this, the government scrapped a tattered cease-fire agreement in January and launched an all-out offensive to "finish off" the LTTE by the end of the year.

So far, the military is on track to keep its promise. An unprecedented advance continues deep into the rebels' last northern stronghold. But a humanitarian crisis is also unfolding, as tens of thousands are displaced -- and trapped -- by a conflict with several fronts. Worse, draconian restrictions on media freedom prevent journalists from covering the war's toll on the ground. There is little doubt among observers that should the government break the LTTE as a conventional fighting force, its remnants may regroup in the northern jungles to wage a guerrilla war that relies on trademark suicide and hit-and-run attacks. A lasting peace will prove elusive until the disadvantaged Tamil community enjoys the political rights and equal economic opportunities it has been denied by a regime steeped in ethnic nationalism.

The eastern province, a long-time base of Tiger operations that fell to government forces last July, may serve as a test case. Development, jobs and more local political powers were promised by the center. A year on, not much has been delivered. Masses of people displaced by fighting in recent years have moved back to the countryside. But many cannot return to their native villages, which are now military-occupied high security zones. Today the hand of the military is as heavy as ever, and communal tensions persist beneath the surface. Jason Motlagh reports from an island on the brink.

Military Moving in on Tamil Capital, Sri Lankan Officials Say

For the first time in more than a decade, Sri Lankan government forces are deep inside the Tamil Tigers' northern stronghold and within striking distance of the Tamil capital, according to military officials who insist an end to one of Asia's deadliest civil wars nears by the day.

Some observers say it's still too soon to talk of the end of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam's 25-year armed struggle for a Tamil state. ...

Fighting Intensifies in Sri Lanka

Fierce fighting has displaced tens of thousands of people in northern Sri Lanka, as government troops advance deeper into the Tamil rebels' last stronghold in an aggressive bid to crush them by the end of the year.

More than 112,000 ethnic Tamils have fled from their homes over the past two months amid daily gunbattles, shelling and air attacks, aid agencies say.

The United Nations estimates the total number of displaced in rebel-held areas is now around 145,000, an unprecedented level in the island nation's long-running conflict.