Sri Lanka army chief says Tamil rebels weakened
Mon June 30, 2008 11:59 EDT .
KRISHAN FRANCIS - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Sri Lanka - 's army chief said Monday that his soldiers have killed at least 9,000 Tamil Tiger fighters during the past two years of civil war and disabled the rebel group of its conventional war capabilities.
Army Commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka said the rebels, known formally as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, no longer have ``the same strength and willpower to fight.''
``We have already defeated them,'' Fonseka told reporters.
He said the insurgents were no longer capable of fighting as a conventional army. ``Although they are fighting us, it is not in the same manner as before.''
Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan could not be immediately be reached for comment.
However, former Sri Lankan army commander Gen. Jerry de Silva called Fonseka's claim mere ``guesswork'' and said that with both sides releasing exaggerated casualty figures for the other side, it was difficult to judge developments on the battlefront.
``Sometimes the LTTE take the bodies away. Some are down, but not dead. The exaggeration comes there,'' he said.
``The fact that the LTTE still keeps fighting shows that it still has the capability,'' de Silva said.
A pro-rebel Web site quoted a rebel commander, identified only as Lakshman, as saying that the rebels were waiting for their moment to strike.
``The army is now stretching wide in their operation; those who know our past history would know what our next step will be,'' the Puthinam Web site quoted Lakshman as saying at a weekend gathering.
``If the government thinks the solution is only through war, we will win that war,'' he said.
Fonseka said 1,700 government soldiers had been killed during the last two years. He said soldiers have been well-trained at jungle and nighttime warfare areas where they were lacking before enabling them to cause heavy damage to the rebels.
Meanwhile air force jets bombed a rebel training camp in northern Kilinochchi district, military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said without giving further details.
On Sunday, the military took control of about 46 square miles of rebel-held territory in the Mannar region following months of fighting, Nanayakkara said.
Nanayakkara said the capture of the fertile rice bowl area was ``a significant breakthrough'' and that the army had succeeded in cutting ``one of the rebels' main supply routes from their de facto state in the north.''
Soldiers meanwhile killed 13 rebels in clashes Sunday in the Welioya region, a military statement said. Another 13 rebels and two soldiers were killed in battles in Mannar and Vavuniya districts.
The Tamil Tiger rebels have fought since 1983 to create an independent state for ethnic minority Tamils, who have been marginalized by successive governments controlled by Sinhalese. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict.Discuss this story
Published: Mon Jun 30 12:22:35 EDT 2008