Sri Lanka army chief says needs a year to beat Tigers

June 30, 2008 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s army chief said Monday his forces have wiped out the conventional military capability of the Tamil Tigers, but that they needed another year to totally defeat the rebels. Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka said the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) guerrillas were no longer able to resist security forces using conventional tactics and were resorting to hit and run attacks.

“From about the beginning of the year, the LTTE has lost its conventional capability,” Fonseka told Colombo-based foreign correspondents. “In less than one year, the LTTE will lose the present capability too.”

He said security forces, who are on a major offensive to capture the rebel-held north, needed at least a year to complete the job.

Fonseka said security forces had just wrested control over the entire coastal district of Mannar, along the north-western sea board of the island, after nine months of fighting which claimed the lives of 170 government troops.

During the same period, the Tigers lost at least 2,000 fighters, Fonseka said, while revising upwards the current Tiger strength to 5,000 combatants. He admitted that previous military estimates of the Tiger strength had b