Sri Lanka troops may face tough jungle battles ahead: analysts

Sri Lankan Police forming a human chain in parliament to protect the Speaker and enable a vote.

January 4, 2009 (AFP) – Sri Lankans celebrated the fall of the Tamil Tigers’ de facto capital with street parties, but military observers say bloodier battles may still lie ahead as the rebels take refuge in the jungles. by Amal Jayasinghe

“This is certainly not the end of the war,” Sithadthan said. “We can say this is the beginning of the end of the LTTE if the military can repeat their Kilinochchi success in Mullaittivu too.”

Sithadthan said it would be difficult for the Tigers to win back the military balance of power, but they could still carry out trademark suicide bombings to keep security forces — and the wider population — on edge.

Sri Lanka’s army chief, Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka, said the Tigers may still have up to 1,900 fighters.

“It won’t take a year to finish them off, to eliminate them,” Fonseka said after President Mahinda Rajapakse announced the capture of Kilinochchi on Friday.

Fonseka said taking Kilinochchi was the culmination of a major military offensive that began in March 2007, although the brutal separatist conflict erupted in 1972 and has since claimed tens of thousands of lives.

The Tigers were once regarded one of the world’s most ruthlessly efficient