The Sri Lankan government has captured the headquarters of Tamil Tiger rebels
in the north of the country dealing a huge blow to their separatist struggle to
establish a Tamil homeland. Shortly after the announcement was made a suspected
suicide bomber killed at least two people in the capital Colombo, and injured at
least 30 others, in a sign the rebels are continuing their violent campaign.
triumphant announcement that the rebel base in Kilinochchi has fallen to the
army was made by Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapakse in a televised
nationwide address Friday.
President Rajapakse called it a spectacular
victory for the armed forces, and called on the rebels to
Across Colombo, people lit firecrackers, danced in the streets
and waved Sri Lankan flags.
The army secured the town - considered the
main bastion of the rebels - after heavy fighting with the Tamil Tigers who had
vowed to defend their political capital.
Kilinochchi has been serving
as the political and administrative headquarters of the Tamil Tigers, and they
have established courts, police stations and a bank in the town.
government spokesman for defense, Keheliya Rambukwella, told VOA, wresting
Kilinochchi from the rebels is a big step forward in the military campaign to
defeat the Tamil Tigers.
"Their complete administration and
infrastructure will be dismantled to great extent," he said. "Which means it is
a huge setback and there will be very little left for them to activate their
But a suicide bombing within hours of the capture
of Killinochchi indicated that the rebels retain the ability to strike back and
are in no mood to surrender.
Officials say a suicide bomber riding a
motorcycle detonated a powerful explosion near the air force headquarters in the
heart of Colombo during the afternoon rush hour. Several airmen and civilians
were killed or injured in the blast.
Suicide bombings are a trademark of
the rebels, and have carried out numerous such attacks during their 25-year-long
campaign to carve out a separate state for the nation's ethnic Tamil minority.
Until a year ago, the rebels controlled huge swathes of territory in
the north, but they have steadily lost ground since the military began its
campaign to evict them from their northern bases. In 2007, the rebels had been
forced out of their eastern bases.
Minister Rambukwella is optimistic
that the Tamil Tigers, having lost the east and faced with heavy reverses in the
north, will no longer be a major threat.
"There is total disarray within
the organization. International support has receded," he said. "They know that
this is not a battle that they could ever, ever win. It would be lunacy for them
to again think they could get what they want through the barrel of the gun."
But the Tamil Tigers have said earlier they will fight on even if
Killinochchi falls. Analysts warn that the Tamil Tigers, known as some of the
fiercest guerrilla fighters in the world, have regrouped after suffering huge
reverses in the past.