Last Tiger bastion falls
Colombo: The Sri Lankan military has captured the LTTE’s last bastion, Mullaittivu on the northeast coast, signalling the beginning of the end of Tiger resistance.
The Sri Lanka Army commander, Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka, said on state television on Sunday that the troops captured Mullaittivu early Sunday evening. The 25-year-old civil war was 95 per cent over with the Tigers now pushed into a small pocket less than 20 sq. km by 15 sq. km, he said.
His troops had taken the rebels’ capital town of Kilinochchi on January 2. Military sources said the troops launched a “surprise attack” across the Nanthikandal lagoon and entered the Mullaittivu town area on Sunday morning. There were almost no civilians present, they said. Mullaittivu is LTTE’s main military base.
India joins hunt for Tiger chief
LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran’s whereabouts were not immediately known after troops captured Mullaittivu town on Sunday evening but friendly governments, including India’s were lending a helping hand to Sri Lanka for tracking him down.
India was not only coordinating the patrolling of the Palk Straits but also sharing intelligence to wipe out the last remnants of the dreaded terrorist outfit, a well-placed defence source told hours after government troops entered LTTE’s last bastion of Mullaittivu.
“The Indian Navy is coordinating with us but assistance is not limited to the patrolling of seas to prevent LTTE boats from entering Indian waters. India and Sri Lanka are also sharing intelligence,” the source said, adding that India was equally engaged in training of Lankan troops.
Cornered, Prabhakaran may end life
As the Sri Lankan army closed in on the remnants of LTTE, the question on everybody’s lips was: where is Velupillai Prabhakaran, the man who spearheaded the fight for an independent Tamil state?
A Sri Lankan Tamil minister said on Sunday the guerrilla leader has virtually been “cornered” and cannot escape from the island nation. “Prabhakaran has already tried shifting from one bunker to another or from one hiding place to the next in Vanni. But he cannot escape from the country,” Douglas Devananda, the leader of the Eelam People’s Democratic Front, said.
The scope of constructions found in Kilinochchi, including a sprawling, well-equipped house where Prabhakaran lived with his family, indicates a high level of preparedness.
More than the exact particulars of his whereabouts, speculation that he may have escaped is engaging the attention of Sri Lanka watchers. For those who believe that he is still holed up in the Vanni region in the island’s north-east, the doubt on their mind is whether he will be captured alive.
Prabhakaran, 54, and father of three, is known to be fanatically committed to the cause and has inculcated a culture of suicide among his cadre — they are trained to bite a cyanide capsule they wear around their neck if captured. He is also believed to have left instructions to his bodyguards that he should be shot if he is in danger of being captured alive.
Remarks by senior army officials that Prabhakaran may choose to escape the island by sea or air has also led to speculation that he may have already fled Lanka to seek asylum elsewhere. Some have noted that the army had captured five airstrips in LTTE-held areas in recent weeks, but not come across any of its small fleet of Zlin-143 Czech aircraft.
The LTTE was understood to have dismantled its aircraft and taken them into the jungles of Mullaittivu. “We are still to trace two planes,” the source said, hinting that Prabhakaran may have left the country. The LTTE is known to have links in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Cambodia.