Sri Lanka hunts Tiger chief with victory in sight

Sri Dharanee Performance Arts Theatre

February 8, 2009 (AFP) – Sri Lankan troops have smashed the Tamil Tigers’ mini-state and cornered the remaining rebels, but officials say they must catch their elusive leader to declare final victory.

The air force carried out a series of raids on locations where Velupillai Prabhakaran, 54, was suspected to have sheltered over the weekend, but there had been no word about his whereabouts, the military said.

Security forces in a two-year-long drive have taken both the political and military headquarters of the Tigers, once regarded as the world’s most ruthlessly effective guerrilla outfit.

President Mahinda Rajapakse on Saturday asked the Tigers to surrender.

Earlier, he declared that Prabhakaran’s Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) would be defeated in days, raising questions on what to do with Prabhakaran, if he were to be taken alive.

The Tiger supremo is a fugitive from justice in Sri Lanka. He was sentenced in absentia to 200 years in jail for his involvement in the January 1996 bombing of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka and killing 91 people.

He is also wanted in neighbouring India for the 1991 assassination of former Indian premier Rajiv Gandhi. There is an Inter