Sri Lanka eyes unity amid drive to crush Tamil Tigers

Sri Lanka's state minister of defence Ruwan Wijewardene (L) takes part in a press conference in Colombo on April 24, 2019. - A Sri Lankan security dragnet hunting those responsible for horrifying bombings that claimed more than 350 lives has scooped up a further 18 suspects, police said April 24, as pressure mounted on politicians to explain why no one acted on intelligence warnings. (Photo by ISHARA S. KODIKARA / AFP) (Photo credit should read ISHARA S. KODIKARA/AFP/Getty Images)

February 2, 2009 (AFP) – Sri Lanka has heightened its usually tight security ahead of national day celebrations even though the rebel Tamil Tigers have been brought to their knees for the first time in decades. The island marks the 61st anniversary of independence from Britain Wednesday with a military parade while its security forces keep up their biggest and most successful drive so far against the Tigers in the northeast.

“We have information that about 16 suicide bombers may still be waiting for an opportunity to attack,” spokesman Ranjith Gunasekera said. “We have taken maximum precautions to prevent bombings.”

The 2009 celebrations are staged amid a military offensive to crush the once-invincible Tigers, which the defence ministry says has entered its final phase. The rebels are now cornered in a small patch of jungle.

The guerrillas, who three years ago controlled about 18,000 square kilometres (7,000 square miles), or one third of the country, have now been confined to an area smaller than 300 square kilometres.

The mini-state of the Tigers crumbled last month when troops overran Mullaittivu, the final urban centre in the hands of the Tigers, who failed to defend their territory despi