LTTE faces annihilation, leadership hiding, says Sri Lanka

April 5th, 2009 - 2:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, April 5 (IANS) As troops mount multi-pronged assaults on the last strongholds of the Tamil Tigers, Sri Lanka said Sunday that the rebels faced “annihilation” and that Tiger leaders were “hiding in no-fire-zone”.
The defence ministry also said that its soldiers were locked in “man-to-man combat” in Mullaitivu district against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

“The remaining LTTE cadres still forced to fight the Sri Lankan Army in the no-fire-zone are facing total annihilation … in Puthukkudiyiruppu East (in Mullaitivu),” the ministry said.

The report came a day after over 100 LTTE fighters were killed and 93 bodies were recovered after fierce clashes Saturday. Troops also discovered a large haul of weapons, including a 130 mm artillery gun.

Among the other seizures were a 30 mm anti-aircraft machine gun, three 12.7 mm anti-aircraft machine guns, seven multi purpose machine guns, 43 T-56 assault rifles, two 40 mm grenade launchers, four 5.56 mm weapons and three rocket propelled grenade (RPG) launchers.

Several vehicles, including a luxury jeep believed to have been used by LTTE leaders, were recovered.

According to the defence ministry, the 53 and 58 Divisions Wednesday made a “spectacular military maneuver” and divided “the remaining LTTE fighting cadre into several isolated groups and surrounding them separately”.

The troops have asked the trapped LTTE cadres to surrender.

“We called them to surrender via their (LTTE) radio frequencies, but they were ordered to fight to their death by the LTTE leadership,” a senior ground commander was quoted as saying by the defence ministry.

“All senior LTTE leaders are now hiding in the no-fire-zone holding the civilians as protective shield. A majority of the battle hardened LTTE leaders (have been) killed while the most senior cadres are now getting ready to send the child soldiers to the frontline,” the ministry said.

There was no immediate reaction from the LTTE, which has been fighting to carve out a separate state in the island’s north-eastern provinces over the past quarter century.

Meanwhile, a state-run newspaper quoted Army Commander Lt.Gen. Sarath Fonseka as reporting that the armed forces were planning “the world’s largest hostage rescue operation where the LTTE terrorists keep over 70,000 civilians in a small patch of land less than 20 sq km”. The report gave no details.

According to official statistics, the number of civilians fleeing the rebel-held areas defying LTTE orders was on the rise. Over 62,000 people have entered the government-held areas since the beginning of 2009.

–IANS

pk/mr

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