The Tamil Tigers fighting for independence in Sri Lanka are regarded as one of the world's deadliest rebel outfits and have outlaw tags from the United States, Britain and India to prove it.
If there was any doubt about their ruthless efficiency, it was removed by Tuesday's stunning assault on the island's heavily guarded main air base and adjoining international airport, which left 18 people dead and destroyed 13 aircraft.
The attack was carried out by Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) suicide bombers known as the 'Black Tigers.'
For the top Tiger leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, the deadliest weapon in his armoury is the young men and women who believe that the greatest glory lies in blowing themselves to pieces in suicide attacks.
On July 5, the Tigers commemorated 217 'Black Tigers' who had perished in human bomb attacks in the past 14 years since a rebel known as Captain Miller staged the first suicide bombing in 1987.
The guerillas were banned in the United States in October 1997 and a week later they devastated the World Trade Centre in Colombo, killing 17 people and wounding more than 100.
India banned the LTTE after the group emerged as the main suspects in the 1991 assassination of former Indian premier Rajiv Gandhi.
At home, the rebels were outlawed in January 1998, a day after a truck packed with explosives devastated Buddhism's holiest temple in Sri Lanka's central town of Kandy, killing 16 people and wounding many more.
The LTTE is known to have a well-established international network and raises money from more than a million Sri Lankan Tamils living abroad.
They are also known to operate several lucrative enterprises, including an international shipping company.
Prabhakaran, a shy school dropout, built the Tigers out of nothing.
Born on November 26, 1954 in Sri Lanka's northern peninsula of Jaffna, Prabhakaran, the fourth and youngest child of a Tamil civil servant, first formed a tiny group called the Tamil New Tigers (TNT) in 1972.
He hardly had any weapons, but was among an increasing number of minority Tamils in Jaffna seeking a separate state in Sri Lanka's northeast - one third of the island's land area.
In 1976, the TNT transformed itself into the LTTE. Prabhakaran drew up a rule book for the group and chose a roaring tiger with outstretched paws as its insignia.
He remained elusive, sailing to neighbouring India whenever authorities got too close. However, he was arrested in May 1982 after a shoot-out with a rival militant in the southern Indian city of Madras.
He jumped bail and fled to Sri Lanka, and has not been caught since.
A father of two, he is held in awe by a huge mass of Tamils and referred to as the 'leader' within Tiger ranks. His critics describe him as a fascist megalomaniac.
Although the LTTE once mouthed Marxist jargon, it now extols only Tamil nationalism. Its cadres take an oath of loyalty to Prabhakaran when they join, and are forbidden from smoking or drinking.
In 1987, when India sent troops to the island, Prabhakaran took them on and sent them back bruised and chastened.
He opened peace talks with Colombo in 1989, but resumed the war again in June 1990. By then, the Tamil Tigers were in control of almost the whole of Sri Lanka's north, including Jaffna.
Prabhakaran again grasped an olive branch extended by President Chandrika Kumaratunga but re-started his war for a Tamil homeland in April 1995 after six months. The conflict has left more than 60,000 people dead.
This article, published in Pakistan newspaper TheNation, on the backdrop of LTTE airport raids, explains the history of deadly LTTE. What ever may be the reason for their fighting.. I cannot understand how these people can kill innocents and cause great loss to National property.