Tigers face ‘extinction’ as Sri Lanka keeps up offensive

January 18, 2009 (AFP) - Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers are threatened with "extinction" following a massive military drive against them, but a political solution will be crucial to end long-standing Tamil grievances, observers say. The Tigers' de facto state in the north of the island has been crumbling rapidly.

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They lost their political capital Kilinochchi earlier this month to a military offensive that has been going on for nearly two years.

But bigger battles may still lie ahead as security forces move to capture the coastal town of Mullaittivu, the last urban stronghold of the beleaguered Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Sri Lanka's defence ministry said the "countdown to extinction of the Tigers" had begun with the capture of Kilinochchi, where the rebels had all the trappings of a de facto state including a civil administration with a bank, courts and a police force.

Military observers agree that the guerrillas' chances of holding out are slim.

The rebels admitted 2,000 of their fighters were killed in 2008, the biggest single loss in a year, while the military appeared to have suffered fewer casualties thanks to the use of heavy weapons and air cover.

"They (the Tigers) are outnumbered," said

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