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'Prabhakaran agrees to civilian rescue'

By T V Sriram in Colombo
April 12, 2009 16:04 IST
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Beleaguered Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran has apparently agreed to a rescue mission by a "western country" to evacuate Tamil civilians trapped in war zone in Sri Lanka's north amid the government's announcement of a temporary 48-hour pause in fighting to enable thousands of displaced persons to move to safer areas.

Prabhakaran "has apparently agreed to a rescue mission by a western country. He has agreed to this offer after he lost all his top level leaders in the Puthukudiyiruppu battle as there is no point for him to operate there in the No Fire Zone without the ability to give leadership to the remaining cadres," the state-run Sunday Observer newspaper said, citing diplomatic sources.

The elusive LTTE chief has been left only with his intelligence wing head Pottu Amman and Sea Tiger leader Soosai at the senior level, it said.

The report came as officials said a 48-hour pause in fighting will be effective from midnight tonight in view of the Sinhala and Tamil New Year to enable the civilians in the north to cross over to the government-controlled territory.

However, officials said the government troops will take defensive action if attacked by the LTTE rebels

The paper noted that United States Ambassador Robert Blake, who met Army chief Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka earlier this week, had "apparently" requested for a seven-day ceasefire for the rescue of the civilians trapped inside the No Fire Zone.

The Army chief is understood to have told the US envoy during their meeting that any decision to enter into a ceasefire would be taken by the government. But, he had also agreed to have a 48-hour pause if there was a guarantee that civilians would be allowed to move out of the No Fire Zone freely, the report said.

The government had earlier stated that it will not agree to a permanent ceasefire with the LTTE at this juncture as possibilities were high that the rebels may use such an opportunity to strengthen themselves or flee the country with the support of "outsiders".

However, the government and security forces are determined to rescue the civilians safely and also to see an end to the "LTTE terror once and for all," the newspaper said, adding the coming days will be very critical as troops are poised to go ahead with the strategy to free the trapped civilians and bring relief to the entire nation.

The report comes days after the LTTE lost several of its trained fighters in fierce clashes in Pudukudiyirippu, the last bastion of the Tiger rebels.

The LTTE was now confined to a 20 sq km-long No Fire Zone, which according to the government was being exploited by the rebels who were not allowing civilians to move to the army-controlled areas.

The paper said Prabhakaran along with his deputy Pottu Amman, "who had a narrow escape from being caught by the security forces", might be conducting a post mortem of the Pudukudiyirippu battle that ended last Sunday.

Claiming that more than 75 per cent of the Tiger leadership has been killed in the fighting, it quoted senior military officials as saying that though the rebels had lost their strongholds before, it was for the first time that they lost their top-level leaders in such a large number.

The LTTE, which still maintains a considerable number of cadres, now lacks the capability to direct them into a battle during last stages of the outfit's existence in the No Fire Zone, the newspaper said.

"Therefore, the siege on their last territory has become a very decisive turning point in the existence of the LTTE as a terror organisation as its strong structure has been shattered after this massive military blow on its leadership," it said.

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T V Sriram in Colombo
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