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S.Lanka rebels killed in cold blood: ex-army chief

[AFP, Sunday, 13 December 2009 11:04 No Comment]

Fonseka (pictured) led the army's successful offensive but later fell out with President Mahinda Rajapakse Sri Lankan troops shot dead surrendering Tamil Tiger leaders on the orders of the defence secretary, the former army chief who is now running for president said in remarks published Sunday.

General Sarath Fonseka said Gotabhaya Rajapakse — the brother of the current president — instructed soldiers not to take rebel prisoners in the days before the Tamil separatists were defeated in May.

Rajapakse spoke with the "commander of the army’s 58th division, giving orders not to accommodate any LTTE (Tiger) leaders attempting to surrender and that they must all be killed", Fonseka said.

He told the privately run Sunday Leader newspaper that senior Tamil Tigers had used foreign mediators to organise a plan in which they would carry white flags and give themselves up to the army.

Fonseka led the army’s successful offensive to end the island’s decades-long ethnic conflict, but later fell out with President Mahinda Rajapakse and the defence secretary.

He resigned last month, accusing the government of sidelining him, and is now attempting to unseat President Rajapakse in elections on January 26.

The government has previously denied ordering troops to kill Tamil Tiger political wing leader B. Nadesan, senior rebel S. Puleedevan and another Tiger official and their families. Fonseka made no mention of the leaders’ families.

Sri Lankan authorities have resisted international calls for a war crimes investigation amid allegations by the United Nations that more than 7,000 civilians were killed during the first four months of this year alone.

Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara declined to reply to Fonseka’s remarks.

"This is a comment given by General Fonseka and he will come out with many more," Nanayakkara said. "We will not comment on what he says."

The military claimed victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on May 18 after wiping out the leadership of the once-powerful movement, which began its armed struggle for an independent Tamil homeland in 1972.

Velupillai Prabhakaran, the group’s founder, was killed in fighting and his body shown on national television.

During the war’s finale, the United States and other Western nations voiced alarm at Sri Lanka’s treatment of non-combatants, along with its internment afterwards of some 130,000 Tamil civilians.

Sri Lanka has said it is now allowing the civilians to leave state-run camps, although human rights groups say that many have nowhere to go with their villages destroyed in the fighting.

When launching his election campaign, Fonseka said he was moving into politics because corruption was preventing Sri Lankans from benefiting from the success that military forces had secured under his command.

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