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As Sri Lanka's 26-year civil war raged to a bloody end a few months ago, thousands of Toronto-area Tamils took to the streets to decry the deaths of loved ones back home.

Now, the same Tamil community is grappling with the violent deaths of two of its young men in Scarborough in less than two weeks, and some wonder if a new kind of war, much closer to home, has taken its place.

"Since the protests have stopped, they have nothing to do," a 25-year-old Tamil-Canadian woman said Tuesday outside an Eglinton Avenue strip mall where her family has a business. "I think the protests were holding us together really strong. Now, [their absence has]divided us into separate communities."

The woman was reacting to the broad-daylight beating death of Annushath Indrakanthan, 19, during the noon hour on Monday, as he stood outside a strip plaza on Bonis Avenue near Birchmount Road. Mr. Indrakanthan, who was taking two summer-school courses to complete his high-school education at nearby Stephen Leacock Collegiate, had just bought a slice of cheese pizza and a Dr. Pepper when a white Ford approached carrying two or three more young men. Two of them set upon him, swinging weapons, including a hammer. As he lay dying on his mother's birthday, the men drove off, throwing weapons from the vehicle as they fled.

Mr. Indrakanthan's death came nine days after Kristian Thanapalan, 22, was similarly beaten by a large group of males armed with baseball or cricket bats in a park near Kennedy Road and Highway 401. Mr. Thanapalan, who was to begin studies at York University in September, had been playing volleyball with friends when he was swarmed.

The young woman, who was a friend of Mr. Thanapalan, asked that her name be withheld in fear her friend's unknown killers would target her next.

She said the thousands-strong Tamil protests throughout the spring, including an impromptu shutdown of the Gardiner Expressway, gave Tamils hope that the world would pressure the Sri Lankan government into a ceasefire with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or Tamil Tigers, whose long separatist struggle enjoyed widespread support among Toronto's estimated 200,000-plus Tamils before the rebel group was defeated, and its charismatic leader killed by government forces, in late May.

She said that "very devastating" defeat has taken the wind out of a unified movement and left Tamils, particularly youth raised in Canada on glorious stories of the war back home, without a cause, and possibly turning against each other based on old internal rivalries.

"We've always had turf wars, we know that," she said. "In every [Tamil] community, there are different villages and castes."

Lenin Benedict, a Tamil-Canadian who openly criticized Toronto Tamils' support of the Tigers during the war's final months, suggested the violence reflects the sudden loosening of the Tigers' once-strong grip on the community's youth.

"There is nobody to control them now," Mr. Benedict said, adding that local Tiger leaders and fundraisers have "gone underground" since the war ended.

Toronto police investigating the two killings said it is far too early to say whether the crimes are linked, and bristled at suggestions that the violence is related to the Sri Lankan conflict or a renewal of hostilities between Tamil gangs, which were notably active a decade ago. Both victims do not have criminal records.

"It could be anything at this point," said Detective Sergeant Dan Nielsen of the homicide squad. He said Mr. Indrakanthan was "targeted," but added that "right now, we don't know what the motive is."

In the late 1990s, rival gangs known as AK Kannan and the VVT waged open gun battles in the streets, sometimes using Mach 10s and other semi-automatic weaponry; other times resorting to machetes and baseball bats.

However, police roundups and youth programs cracked down on the gangs. There were even suggestions at the time that Tamil Tiger leaders from Sri Lanka came to Toronto to mediate the violence, fearing it would tarnish Tamils and harm the guerrillas's fundraising efforts.

Today, AK Kannan and the VVT are said to be all but defunct, their members having aged and graduated to normal lives, deportation or jail.

Friends of both the recent victims said there was nothing in their lives to indicate gang involvement or to explain why anyone would want to kill them.

While several young Tamils said yesterday that Kennedy Road in Scarborough acts as an east-west dividing line for local thugs, they said these groups are not motivated by geopolitics or any other factor beyond the typical ones: girls, perceived slights on Facebook or MSN, and the like.

In a photo circulating on Facebook Tuesday, Mr. Indrakanthan is seen extending three fingers in what appears to be an "east-side" gesture. He lived with his parents and two younger brothers on Old Finch Avenue, well east of Kennedy Road.

"I know for a fact he just did that for fun," said his 16-year-old brother, Nevi. "It doesn't mean he was in a gang." Mr. Indrakanthan had applied to York and Ryerson universities and hoped to study business management.

His brother agreed, however, that the end of the Sri Lankan war has left a void in the lives of many Tamil-Canadian youths, which may help explain the recent violence.

"It's always been like that, Tamil on Tamil," he said of past conflicts among youths. Since the war is over, "they have nothing to fight for.

"Now it's getting even worse and no one is stepping up," he said. "I know there were witnesses, and I just want them to say something, at least."