Two LTTE leaders surrender, over 100,000 flee war zone (Intro Roundup)

April 22nd, 2009 - 10:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, April 22 (IANS) Two Tamil Tiger leaders surrendered to the Sri Lankan military as the mass of distraught Tamil civilians fleeing the war zone crossed the 100,000 figure Wednesday, the authorities said.
Stunned by the continuing human avalanche out of Puthumathalan area in Mullaitivu district, the government hurriedly sent 25,000 food packets by helicopter from Colombo to feed the hungry civilians, whose welfare has raised global concern.

State-run television showed footage of Tamil men and women, most of who fled into army-held areas with nothing more than the clothes they were in, thanking the authorities for rescuing them.

“We have suffered enough at LTTE hands,” one woman said, referring to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which is now left with a small strip of land along the coast in Mullaitivu where its leaders are said to be in hiding. “We now feel relieved,” the woman said.

The continuing exodus of Tamil civilians from the conflict zone began Monday. By Wednesday evening, more than 100,000 had left the area, mocking LTTE claims that the people did not want to cross over.

Military officials said the refugees were being received by soldiers at Puthukudiyirippu, also in Mullaitivu, and then bussed to Vavuniya district in the north, an area now teeming with Tamil refugees.

The civilian suffering coincided with the dramatic surrender — for the first time — by two middle rung LTTE leaders to a military that has vowed to crush the insurgent group and kill its leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.

There was no word on the whereabouts of the elusive LTTE chief, who faces possible death as troops close in on him in the coastal zone.

In Colombo, President Mahinda Rajapaksa warned that Prabhakaran, 54, would have to “face consequences for his acts” against the state over the past three decades when he led the LTTE.

The president told his supporters at his official residence that Prabhakaran, who is also wanted in India for the assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, had snubbed a possible presidential pardon by refusing to surrender by Tuesday noon.

“By not giving up arms and surrendering, he must now face the consequences,” declared the president, who has rejected calls from Western countries to declare a temporary truce to let the civilians leave the small area still with the LTTE.

The two LTTE leaders who surrendered were identified as its media coordinator Velayutham Dayanithi alias Daya Master and V.K. Pancharatnam, better known as George, who was the English translator to the late LTTE political wing head S.P. Thamilselvan.

“These two surrendered to the troops at Puthumathalan as the troops were expanding their defences in that area,” military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara told IANS.

George, a retired postmaster, is fluent in Tamil, Sinhala and English languages and was part of all six rounds of peace talks Colombo held with the LTTE between 2002 and 2006 in third countries.

Daya Master, a former English teacher at a school, had been coordinating and organising interviews with LTTE political wing leaders for the local and foreign media, mainly during the 2002 Norwegian-brokered truce period.

In July 2006 Daya Master was brought to the Apollo Hospital in Colombo for treatment of his heart ailment.

The latest exodus has taken to 170,000 the total number of civilians who had quit LTTE areas. Around 3,000 of them are believed to be linked to the LTTE.

Defence spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said: “The LTTE has only an eight-km strip or about 12-14 sq km of land area left under its control… The government strongly believes that Prabhakaran is still (there).

“The LTTE has lost all its military capabilities. They are fighting a losing battle. That is why they are using (protests in Western capitals) to put pressure on us,” the minister said.

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