Related News

Home » World

Sri Lanka celebrates as Tigers on the run

THE Tamil Tiger rebels admitted defeat in their 25-year-old war with the Sri Lankan government yesterday, offering to lay down their guns as government forces swept across their last strongholds in the northeast.

But the government rejected the last-ditch call for a cease-fire, saying the thousands of civilians trapped in the war zone had all escaped to safety and there was no longer any reason to stop the battle. The military said the remaining rebels were still fighting.

With a war that has killed over 70,000 people nearing its end, Sri Lankans poured into the streets in celebration. President Mahinda Rajapaksa has scheduled a news conference for tomorrow, when he is expected to tell the nation the war is over.

The fate of the Tamil Tigers' top commanders remains unclear, including the whereabouts of rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.

A senior military official said troops found the bodies of several rebel fighters who had committed suicide yesterday when troops surrounded them. The bodies were suspected of being Prabhakaran and his deputies, but the military was still trying to confirm their identities.

The rebels, who once controlled a wide swath of the north, have been routed by government forces in recent months. Yesterday, Tamil Tiger suicide bombers targeted troops clearing out the last pockets of rebel resistance in the war zone and troops killed at least 70 rebels trying to flee by boat, the military said.

The tattered and nearly defeated rebel group offered to lay down its arms.

"This battle has reached its bitter end," rebel official Selvarasa Pathmanathan said. "It is our people who are dying now from bombs, shells, illness and hunger. We cannot permit any more harm to befall them. We remain with one last choice - to remove the last weak excuse of the enemy for killing our people. We have decided to silence our guns."

Media Minister Anura Yapa dismissed the appeal, saying government forces had rescued all the civilians.

"We are looking after those people. We want to free this country from the terrorist LTTE," he said, referring to the group by its formal name, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said the rebels had not laid down their weapons. "Fighting is still going on in small pockets," he said.

Concern has mounted for the fate of the tens of thousands of civilians trapped in the war zone.

But 63,000 civilians fled the area over the past 72 hours, clearing the way for the government to finish off the rebels.

"We're relieved to hear that all civilians have come out of the combat zone," United Nations spokesman Gordon Weiss said yesterday.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend