Sri Lanka signals shift in war on Tamil Tigers

Jan 22, 2008 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s President Tuesday signalled a shift in the war against the Tamil Tigers, saying he did not want to push his troops into rebel-held territory to defeat the guerrillas. Since the start of this month, the Sri Lanka defence ministry has claimed it has killed 592 rebels against just 26 soldiers dead.
The military’s death toll claims cannot be independently verified. President Mahinda Rajapakse also said Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) may not have been behind a string of recent bombings on the island, and pointed at the possible involvement of political and business interests.

“We will hit if we are hit,” the president said of his military strategy.

“The recent operations in the north are not aimed at advancing… I don’t believe in a military solution,” he told reporters.

The remarks were in sharp contrast to statements from the island’s military and even the president’s brother — defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse — who have stated their intention to seize the rebels’ mini-state in the north and eliminate the guerrilla leadership.

The government had also earlier this month pulled out of a tattered Norwegian-brokered truce with the rebels,