Monday, May 18, 2009


Sri Lankan troops
Sri Lanka's army has been releasing images of its troops on the coast in the north-eastern war zone

The leader of the Tamil Tiger rebels, Velupillai Prabhakaran, is alive and surrounded by government troops, the Sri Lankan military has said.

Prabhakaran is guarded by about 200 rebels and encircled by Sri Lankan troops in a small patch of jungle, a military spokesman said on television.

Sri Lankan forces have routed the rebels in the past few weeks, bringing a 26-year war to its conclusion.

Earlier, four senior rebel leaders were killed in the fighting, the army said.

They are said to include the head of the Tigers' political wing, Balasingham Nadesan, the head of rebels' peace secretariat Seevaratnam Puleedevan, and a military leader known as Ramesh.

The army also says it has found the body of Prabhakaran's eldest son, Charles Anthony.

One unconfirmed report, on AFP news agency, said Prabhakaran himself had also been killed.

The agency, quoting an unnamed defence official, said the rebel chief and two close aides were ambushed and shot dead while trying to flee the area in an ambulance.

The latest claims cannot be verified as reporters are barred from the war zone.'

Sri Lanka's army says the last Tamil Tiger (LTTE) fighters have been penned into a 1.5 square kilometre (0.6 sq mile) patch of jungle.

Tamil Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran
Born November, 1954
1972: Founded Tamil New Tigers (TNT), forerunner of LTTE
Wanted in Sri Lanka and India

The military spokesman said he could not predict exactly what would happen next but added: "We won't allow him [Prabhakaran] to escape."

The television also showed what it said were Tamil Tiger (LTTE) ammunition dumps and heavy weapons burning after the rebels set fire to them.

As the offensive continued, more than 1,000 Sri Lankans protested outside the British High Commission in the capital, Colombo.

The demonstrators, accusing Britain of siding with the Tigers, threw stones and burnt an effigy of UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

A High Commission spokesman said it was "an outrage" that the Sri Lankan authorities let the demonstration become so violent.

The latest developments came a day after the rebels declared a ceasefire, saying the battle had "reached its bitter end".

Selvarasa Pathmanathan, the Tigers' chief of international relations, said in a statement on the pro-rebel TamilNet website that the LTTE was "prepared to silence its guns if that is what needed by the international community to save the life and dignity of the Tamil people".

The government has consistently refused to call a halt to the fighting, vowing to defeat the rebels entirely.

Sources in the UN say significant numbers of civilians are still in the combat zone but the Sri Lankan government says all civilians have left.

The Tigers have been fighting for a separate state for Tamils in the north and east of Sri Lanka since the 1970s.

As estimated 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict and thousands displaced.





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