Rajapaksa asks LTTE to free civilians, surrender before late

April 6th, 2009 - 12:13 am ICT by IANS  

Colombo, April 5 (IANS) The military campaign against the Tamil Tigers was about to end, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa said Sunday and urged the rebel leadership to let free thousands of civilians and surrender to the security forces to avoid total annihilation.
Speaking to his party supporters at his tightly guarded Temple Trees residence, Rajapaksa said the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), unable to face the military thrust, was now hiding in the no-fire-zone, holding thousands of innocent civilians as human shield.

“The only option available for the Tiger leadership is to lay down arms and surrender to our heroic troops if it wanted to save the lives of the remaining cadres,” radio Shree FM quoted Rajapaksa as saying Sunday evening amid loud applause from his party loyalists.

“The LTTE should allow the civilians to go free and surrender to the security forces,” said Rajapaksa, who is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

His remarks have come a few hours after the military said it had completely captured Puthukkudiyiruppu, the last LTTE bastion in Mullaitivu district, killing over 420 LTTE cadres in three days of close-quarter gun battles.

“Over three days including today, the troops have recovered over 420 LTTE bodies. Several known LTTE leaders such as Vithusha, Nagesh, Thurga, Theepan and Gadafi were among those killed in the operation,” military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said Sunday.

Theepan was in charge of the LTTE military wing for the island’s north while Gadafi was known to be the personal bodyguard of LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran. Vithusha was the LTTE women wing leader.

The defence ministry earlier in the day said all senior LTTE leaders “are now hiding in the no-fire-zone holding the civilians as protective shield”.

Noting that the troops were locked in “man-to-man combat” in Mullaitivu, it said the remaining LTTE cadres “still forced to fight the Sri Lankan Army in the no-fire-zone are facing total annihilation”.

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

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