Tamil Tigers promise to fight back against Sri Lankan forces

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Tamil Tigers car with soldiers in 2004.
Image: Ulflarsen.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, otherwise known as the Tamil Tigers, have told the BBC that they are prepared to fight back against Sri Lankan forces.

The vow follows reports that Sri Lankan forces are laying siege to the last rebel-held areas of the island. The Sri Lankan army have said that the "final battle" was underway and predicted that the Tamil rebellion is finished. There have been rumours that Velupillai Prabhakaran, the Tigers' leader since the conflict began, had fled in the face of the assault. But political leader B Nadesan denied this, telling the BBC that the claim was "malicious propaganda".

According to Reuters, analysts say that around 2,000 Tiger fighters remain in the face of the 50,000-strong government push into the north, which began in August 2006. Government forces captured Mullaitivu, the last stronghold of the Tigers, on Sunday. The Associated Press says that Tigers have been preventing civilians from leaving the war zone, with the government accusing them of using civilians as human shields. In turn, the government has declared a section of the territory to be a safe area for civilians but there have been reports of artillery fire and the United Nations say troops have been fighting in the area.

Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka of the Sri Lankan army was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying "the end of terrorism is near and we will definitely win". Meanwhile aid agencies say 230,000 Tamil refugees are in the remaining battle zone. The Associated Press say that the area is densely populated and diplomats have expressed concern about the use of ground troops in the area. Most journalists are forbidden from entering the war zone, making confirmation difficult.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa won the 2005 election on a hard-line ticket, ruling out autonomy for the Tamil north and east. This led to an increase in the war and the eventual abandonment of a Norwegian-mediated ceasefire at the start of last year.