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Sri Lanka vows to destroy LTTE

[Al Jazeera, Saturday, 7 February 2009 09:13 No Comment]

2009265856758734_3 The Sri Lankan government has vowed to "destroy militarily" the Tamil Tigers while insisting that it is not targeting civilians.


Keheliya Rambukwella, the government’s defence spokesman, said the campaign against the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) will not be stopped due to any pressure.


"Nothing will be discussed with the LTTE. The LTTE will be militarily destroyed," he said.


A statement from the office of Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka’s president, said he had assured Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, that the offensive "would be carried out without harassment to the civilian population".


Officials have accused the LTTE of using civilians as human shields.


Food crisis warning

The UN has, meanwhile, given warning on a food crisis in the country’s north.


Emilia Casella, a spokeswoman for the World Food Programme, said in Geneva on Friday that the entire population of Vanni is facing a food crisis.


Some 250,000 people there are completely dependent on humanitarian aid, but the WFP has not been able to get a supply convoy into the conflict zone since January 16, she said.

A convoy that was supposed to enter during a four-hour "humanitarian window" on Thursday could not go because the agency did not receive the necessary clearance from government officials.
It will have to wait until next Thursday, Casella said.

"We don’t have any more stocks to be distributed, and our staff are essentially hiding at the moment,” she said.


Civilian exodus

More than 2,200 civilians are said to have fled the war zone in the last several days, official sources said on Friday.


The reported flight of civilians came after the military announced the capture of the biggest LTTE sea base.

The military released a video on Saturday showing its seizure of the base.


The fighting is concentrated around a circle of jungle in the country’s northeast, where the military says it has all but surrounded the LTTE.


The US, Britain, the European Union and other major powers have urged the LTTE to surrender, and for both sides to stop firing temporarily to allow civilians out and aid in.

However, Sri Lanka’s government has rejected a call by international donors for it to begin negotiating with the LTTE.


Damien Kingsbury, a professor at Australia’s Deakin University and an expert on Sri Lanka, told Al Jazeera that the LTTE is not going to accept unconditional surrender.


"Quite clearly they fear that if they do surrender, they will be treated very badly if not killed on the spot," he said.

"The options of a peace deal at this stage look very slim. The government really needs to offer a genuine autonomy package or at least begin to talk about it in conjunction with the ceasefire.


"That doesn’t appear to be on the table at this time."


Kingsbury said: "Tamil civilians are claiming that they are being very badly mistreated in this conflict … and this is going to widen the gap between the government and Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority."


Sea base captured

Sri Lankan military officials on Thursday said that following the fall of the Chalai base, the LTTE was now left with just 20km coastline in the northeastern district of Mullaittivu.


"The army has just moved into the Chalai base," a military official said.


"Troops are now consolidating their hold in the coastal area."


There was no immediate comment from the LTTE on the government claim.


The seizure of Chalai would disrupt LTTE supplies as the sea base was used to receive arms and fuel from other countries through a widespread smuggling network.

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