Rajapaksa visits former Tamil Tigers hub Kilinochchi (Second Lead)

April 16th, 2009 - 5:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, April 16 (IANS) Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa Thursday paid a surprise visit to Kilinochchi and addressed troops who captured the region from the Tamil Tigers in January, ending a decade of rebel rule.
Determined to crush the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the president interacted with the soldiers as well as Tamil civilians who fled the last chunk of territory still held by the rebels, officials said.

“The president visited Kilinochchi and addressed the troops there. He was accompanied by the defence secretary, the service commanders and several officials,” military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara told IANS.

Troops captured Kilinochchi, 350 km north of Colombo, at the start of January, marking a decisive turn in the dragging war waged by the LTTE to create an independent Tamil state.

President Rajapaksa, who is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, is the first state leader to visit Kilinochchi after nearly three decades.

“The president made this goodwill visit during the traditional Sinhala and Hindu New Year period to meet the troops as well as IDPs (internally displaced people) and other civilians,” said the defence ministry.

Flying into the former rebel stronghold in a helicopter, he met military commanders to know the progress of the war, state-run television reported.

According to the report, the military commanders told the president that the troops were determined “to free the civilians held hostage by the LTTE in the small strip of land” in Mullaitivu district.

“The president hailed the achievements by the troops and instructed them to take further steps to free thousands of civilians without causing them any harm.”

The LTTE over the past one decade used Kilinochchi town as its administrative and political capital until the troops captured it after months of fierce fighting.

Kilinochchi once boasted of LTTE-run police, banks and judicial services. It was considered the heart of an independent Tamil Eelam state the Tigers had been fighting to set up over the past quarter century.

The town also played host to meetings between LTTE leaders and diplomats following the Norway-brokered 2002 ceasefire agreement. LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran held his last press conference in Kilinochchi in April 2002.

The military, which claims to have cornered the LTTE into a 14 sq km of coastal strip in Mullaitivu, says it is close to finally vanquishing the once formidable Tamil Tigers.

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