Sri Lanka president declares Tamil Tigers ‘defeated’

May 16, 2009 (AFP) – The president of Sri Lanka declared Saturday that the island’s separatist Tamil Tiger rebels have been “defeated militarily” after decades of bitter ethnic bloodshed. Defence officials said the massive offensive against the rebel army was all but complete, with the entire island under government control for the first time in years but for a miniscule pocket of jungle.

They said the remnants of the once formidable rebel force “were preparing for a mass suicide after being effectively cut-off of escape routes, both land and sea” by a morning coastal pincer movement by the army.

“I am proud to announce… that my government, with the total commitment of our armed forces, has in an unprecedented humanitarian operation finally defeated the LTTE militarily,” President Mahinda Rajapakse said in a speech in Jordan.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have been fighting for an independent homeland on the ethnic Sinhalese-majority island since the 1970s.

Rajapakse said he would be returning to “a country that has been totally freed from the barbaric acts of the LTTE.”

Defence officials reported that sporadic fighting was still in progress in a