Allegations of chemical weapons use in the Sri Lankan Civil War

There are allegations that chemical weapons were used by the Sri Lankan military and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during the Sri Lankan Civil War. No strong evidence for indicating the consistent use of such weapons during the war have been found thus far.[1][2]

Allegations against the Sri Lankan militaryEdit

The LTTE has accused the Sri Lankan military of obtaining and using chemical weapons against its combatants and Tamil civilians. In 2001 the LTTE claimed that the government had obtained banned chemical weapons, and warned of "dangerous consequences" should they be deployed on the battlefield. The accusation was made in relation to the government's purchase of RPO-A Shmel Thermobaric rocket launchers, which are neither banned nor are chemical weapons.[3][4] The pro-LTTE politician[5] Joseph Pararajasingham also referred to these as banned chemical weapons solely intended to annihilate the Tamil people.[6]

In 2009 a senior LTTE commander claimed to have witnessed and escaped extensive chemical attacks against LTTE combatants.[7] A 2009 United States diplomatic cable leak however indicates that the International Committee of the Red Cross and the High Commissioner of India in Sri Lanka reported that their medical teams treating the wounded during the final stages of the war came across no evidence of chemical weapons use by government forces as alleged by Tamil groups.[2] The UN Secretary General's Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka reported allegations that chemical agents were used against civilians, but stated that it could not reach a conclusion regarding their credibility.[8]

In 2010 the wife of cartoonist Prageeth Eknaligoda has claimed that he went missing after he started researching the Sri Lankan military's use of chemical weapons in war and started publicizing his findings to diplomats outside Sri Lanka.[9][10][11]

The 2014 documentary This Land Belongs to the Army aired interviews with alleged soldiers who claimed that chemical weapons were used on LTTE combatants and civilians and described their operation and impact. It also broadcast images which claimed to show victims of these attacks suffering from chemical burns.[12] In January 2014, the Roman Catholic Bishops in the former war zone called for an international inquiry as to whether government forces used cluster munitions and chemical weapons in densely populated areas.[13]

Allegations against the LTTEEdit

The Sri Lankan government has accused the LTTE of planning and carrying out chemical attacks. In 2007 the Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake claimed that security forces had intercepted rebels transporting large quantities of acid in preparation for a major attack.[14] In 2009 the Sri Lankan military reported that they had captured a stock of gas masks and chemical resistant suits from an LTTE camp in Mullaithivu. The Defence Ministry claimed that the LTTE had been carrying out low impact chemical gas attacks during the course of the final Eelam war, and that this discovery was evidence of a plot for a massive chemical attack.[15] Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona stated that the government has requested an investigation from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons into charges of chemical weapons use by the LTTE.[2]

In 1990 the LTTE conducted a chemical attack using commercially obtained barrels of chlorine gas against a Sri Lanka army encampment in eastern Kiran, in the Batticaloa district. This was noted as the first non-state use of a chemical weapon in warfare.[16][17][18][19] LTTE also used the non-lethal agent CS gas against advancing government troops but with little effect due to the troops being prepared for chemical warfare however several soldiers developed breathing difficulties. The aerosol version of CS gas is commonly used for tear gas in riot control but it is used in several variants some of which can cause severe burns.[20][21] The symptoms reported by soldiers however were mild and limited to breathing difficulties, vomiting and skin rashes.[22]


  1. ^ "Chemical Weapons in Sri Lanka". Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.
  2. ^ a b c "Northern Sri Lanka SitRep 50". Wikileaks. Archived from the original on 26 June 2015. Retrieved 26 June 2015.
  3. ^ "LTTE warns against use of 'chemical weapons'". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 28 September 2002.
  4. ^ "Sri Lanka's denial fails to pacify Tamil leaders". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 26 September 2002.
  5. ^ "Gunmen kill Sri Lankan politician". BBC. 25 December 2005.
  6. ^ "Controversial weapon meant for genocide alleges MP". Tamilnet.
  7. ^ "Colombo uses chemical weapons: LTTE". TamilNet. Retrieved 21 October 2014.
  8. ^ "Report of the Secretary-General's Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka" (PDF). UN.
  9. ^ "Prageeth missing due to 'chemical weapon probe'". BBC Sinhala. Retrieved 21 October 2014.
  10. ^ "The dangers of reporting on human rights in Sri Lanka". Amnesty International. Retrieved 22 October 2014.
  11. ^ "Paradise Lost". 28 February 2014. Retrieved 22 October 2014.
  12. ^ "Video of Sri Lankan soldier describing use of chemical weapons - India's News X". Tamil Guardian. Retrieved 21 October 2014.
  13. ^ "Catholic bishops tell US: probe Sri Lanka's alleged use of cluster munitions in civil war". Fox News US. Retrieved 22 October 2014.
  14. ^ "LTTE ready to use chemical weapons: PM". Times of India.
  15. ^ "Sri Lankan Army finds chemical warfare equipment". The Hindu. 12 March 2009.
  16. ^ Cordesman, Anthony. Terrorism, Asymmetric Warfare, and Weapons of Mass Destruction. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 121.
  17. ^ Hoffman, Bruce (2009). "The first non-state use of a chemical weapon in warfare: the Tamil Tigers' assault on East Kiran". Small Wars & Insurgencies. 20 (3–4): 463–477. doi:10.1080/09592310903026969. S2CID 143268316.
  18. ^ Ackerman, Gary. Jihadists and Weapons of Mass Destruction. CRC Press. p. 85.
  19. ^ Saikia, Jaideep. Terrorism: Patterns of Internationalization. SAGE Publications. p. 212.
  20. ^ Bulathsinghala, Frances (19 September 2008). "Lankan army accuses Tamil Tigers of using 'CS' gas". DAWN.COM. Retrieved 1 July 2021.
  21. ^ "LTTE used CS Gas to attack Soldiers". Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  22. ^ "Columns - Situation Report". Retrieved 1 July 2021.