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Sri Lankan troops ‘kill’ 70 escaping Tamil Tigers

[Times Online UK, Sunday, 17 May 2009 08:22 No Comment]

Sri Lankan troops claim to have killed at least 70 Tamil Tiger rebels trying to escape across a shallow lagoon using boats on Sunday, as fears of further bloodshed grew after President Mahinda Rajapakse announced the defeat of the rebel army.

The guerrillas were reportedly killed as they tried to break out of the pocket of land where they have been holed up in the northeast of the island, according to Sri Lankan military spokesman Udaya Nanayakkara.

“Troops observed the six boats in the lagoon and destroyed them," Brigadier Nanayakkara said. “We recovered 70 bodies and an identification process is underway.”

The fighting comes a day after Sri Lanka’s President Rajapakse declared victory in the quarter century civil war with the Tamil Tigers. But the group’s top leaders remain at large and fierce battles continue.

President Rajapakse arrived back in Colombo earlier today to a hero’s welcome after a trip abroad during which he announced that his troops had defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels after 37 years of bloodshed.

The president was welcomed by his cabinet at the airport, and was blessed by Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and Muslim clergy.

Hundreds of supporters waved flags at the tightly guarded airport and set off firecrackers across the country to celebrate his return.

Addressing the G11 summit in Jordan on Saturday, President Rajapakse said he was returning home as a leader who had “crushed” the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which fought for a separate state since 1972.

“My government, with the total commitment of our armed forces, has in an unprecedented humanitarian operation finally defeated the LTTE militarily,” he said.

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