LTTE ’silences’ guns, says war has reached ‘bitter end’ (Second Lead)

May 17th, 2009 - 6:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, May 17 (IANS) Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger guerrillas Sunday dramatically announced that they were silencing their guns, ending a dragging armed struggle for a Tamil state that has killed thousands since 1983 and left the island nation battered and bruised.
As the military continued its advance to overwhelm the last pockets of guerrilla resistance, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said in a statement that it had decided to “silence” its guns and that its fight for a Tamil homeland “has reached its bitter end”.

The surprise announcement came amid intense rumours that their elusive leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was dead. But there was no word on the event from either Colombo or the LTTE.

“This battle has reached its bitter end… We have decided to silence our guns,” said the LTTE statement from S. Pathmanathan, head of the group’s International Relations department and posted on the TamilNet website.

“Our only regrets are for the lives lost and that we could not hold out for longer,” it said, a day after Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa announced a conclusive defeat of the feared LTTE.

Pathmanathan, a Prabhakaran confidant who lives outside Sri Lanka, blamed the international community for the plight of the Tamil civilians killed and wounded in the relentless military onslaught in the country’s north.

Accusing Sri Lanka of killing several thousand Tamils since 2007, it said: “We need to do everything within our means to stop this carnage. If this means silencing our arms and entering a peace process, that is something that we have already agreed to.

“This is the need of the hour. These are historically unprecedented times and require historically prudent decisions.”

Pathmanathan alleged that a large number of innocent Tamils had fallen victim to bombs, shells, illness and hunger in the areas held by the LTTE in the military offensive.

“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.”

Pathmanathan’s statement came after President Rajapaksa said in Jordan Saturday: “(I) will be going back to my country that has been totally freed from the barbaric acts of terrorism of the LTTE. This freedom comes after 30 long years”.

The LTTE, founded in 1976, stepped up its armed campaign in 1983 to carve out an independent Tamil Eelam state in Sri Lanka’s northeast. It has now been outlawed as a terrorist group by more than 30 countries including the US, Canada, India and the European Union.

The Tamil struggle has killed thousands, with some estimating the toll at nearly 100,000.

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