Monday, May 18, 2009

Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers Concede Defeat in Civil War

Via Yahoo News! (AP) -

The Tamil Tigers admitted defeat Sunday in their fierce quarter-century war for a separate homeland as government forces raced to clear the last pockets of rebel resistance from the war zone in the north.

Far from the battlefield, thousands of Sri Lankans danced in the streets of Colombo, celebrating the stunning collapse of one of the world's most sophisticated insurgencies. But with rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran still at large, the threat of renewed guerrilla warfare remained.

Several rebel fighters committed suicide when they were surrounded, but it wasn't clear whether Prabhakaran or other leaders were among them.

The Tamil Tigers once controlled a shadow state complete with courts, police and a tax system across a wide swath of the north. By Sunday, troops had surrounded the remaining rebels in a 0.4-square-mile (1-square-kilometer) patch of land and were fighting off suicide bombs and other attacks, the military said.


The rebels have been fighting since 1983 for a separate state for Sri Lanka's ethnic Tamil minority after years of marginalization at the hands of the Sinhalese majority. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the fighting.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has said that after defeating the rebels, his government will begin talks toward power sharing and political reconciliation between the two communities. But many Tamils are skeptical that the victorious government will be willing to make real concessions.


Yet the fate of Prabhakaran, the founder and unquestioned leader of the Tamil Tigers, and his top deputies remained unclear.

A senior military official said troops found the bodies of several rebel fighters who had committed suicide Sunday 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 official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

In an interview with Britain's Channel 4 news to be aired Sunday night, Pathmanathan said he had spoken with Prabhakaran personally and the rebel leader remained inside the war zone.

The portly, mustachioed Prabhakaran led the Tamil Tigers for more than three decades, transforming it from little more than a street gang into a feared guerrilla group. He is seen as the heart and soul of the movement.


The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (commonly known as the LTTE or the Tamil Tigers) is a militant organization based in northern Sri Lanka.

LTTE was designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations by the Department of State since October 8, 1997. Named as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) since November 2, 2001.

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