Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sri Lankan rebels admit defeat after longdrawn war

"They fought for an Eelam (separate state) that they could never win. It was only a waste of lives. They have caused massive death and destruction over the years. Finally they themselves have realised that it is all over."

Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels on Sunday admitted defeat in their 37-year battle for an independent ethnic homeland, with their few remaining fighters encircled in the jungle by soldiers.

The Tigers' armed campaign against the government left well over 70,000 people dead in decades of pitched battles, suicide attacks, bomb strikes and assassinations.

"This battle has reached its bitter end," the Tigers' chief of international relations, Selvarasa Pathmanathan, said in a statement carried on the pro-rebel Tamilnet website.

"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.

"Our only regrets are for the lives lost and that we could not hold out for longer."

Only two years ago, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) controlled nearly a third of the island nation and operated an effectively autonomous Tamil state with courts, schools and a civil service.

But the government of President Mahinda Rajapakse launched a huge military offensive which drove the Tigers out of the east and then the north, before trapping the remaining guerrillas on the coast.

The military's final push for victory has come at the cost of thousands of innocent lives, the United Nations has said, with the government's brutal tactics attracting widespread international condemnation.

The LTTE's announcement came as the island's defence ministry said all civilians held by the Tigers had escaped the war zone, with the last few rebel fighters boxed into a small patch of jungle.

"They were actually defeated some time ago, but they have formally accepted defeat only now," military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara told AFP.

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