Top LTTE leaders may commit 'mass suicide': Sri Lanka

Top LTTE leaders may commit 'mass suicide': Sri Lanka

The Tigers are "preparing for a mass suicide after forces cut off their sea as well as land escape routes and cornered them in a mere 3.5 sq km area", a military statement said.

The reports of the LTTE leadership resorting to self destruction came as a government spokesman said that army was on the brink of capturing all the rebel-held areas.

"Within hours, we expect the news of end of fighting," state television reporters, who have been allowed to move with the frontline troops, reported.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is on a trip to Jordon, is cutting short his visit and returning here where he may make a televised announcement late tonight.

The fast paced development came as Sri Lankan forces today captured last strip of coastline held by the rebels virtually cutting off any sea escape routes.

Two army divisions advancing on parallel fronts on the island's northeastern coastline linked up at the village of Vellamullivaikkal early today cutting off any sea escape route of the Tigers, military spokesman Brig Udaya Nanayakkara said.

Virtually now encircled by the army, LTTE on Saturday announced that it would allow all civilians trapped in the area held by them to leave to safety.

A pro-Tamil website quoted LTTE's new international pointsman S Pathmanathan as saying that in response to call by US President Barack Obama "LTTE is ready to do anything that is necessary to save the Tamil people trapped in the unrelenting war that is waged on them."

"We heed the call by the US President and are prepared to take measures that will spare the life of our people," the statement said.

UN estimates that over 50,000 people are still trapped in the war zone. But since yesterday, more than 10,000 people have crossed to safety.

The Tigers are now left with just 3.5 sq km of land between the lagoon and Sri Lankan forces facing the sea.

A Naval spokesman said Prabhakaran was still leading his now shrinking fighters and wanted to put up a final stand in the last land patch which the rebels still control.

The spokesman citing information given by arrested family members and relatives of the Sea Tigers' chief T Sivanesan better known as "Col Soosoi" said that 54-year-old Prabhakaran was still inside the no-fire zone.

The Lankan forces, who have been set a 48 hours target to crush the LTTE by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, today killed 61 Tiger rebels in intense fighting in the no-fire zone.

Soosai's wife had also told the Lankan authorities that along with Prabhakaran another key Tiger leader Pottu Amman and some other top leaders were in the small area, still in LTTE hands at Wellamullivaikal, the Navy said.

Pottu Amman, the dreaded intelligence chief of the LTTE, is one of the prime accused wanted for plotting the assassination of late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

The Tigers' senior ranks are hoping to prolong their defeat by resorting to tactics like using civilians as shields and suicide bombers, the Defence Ministry said.

"The tiger rebels have no way to go and the only way out is to surrender with the security forces or to be crushed in the military advance," a military official said.

"The rebels are blowing off large explosive and ammunition dumps and also using stocks of white phosphorous with improvised barrel bombs to create large destruction within the hostage makeshift camps," the ministry said.

Meanwhile, an LTTE attempt to ram an explosive laden bus into the 58 Division forward defences failed with the bus exploding prematurely.

No damages were caused to troops, military said, adding that at least 10 LTTE rebels were killed due to the explosion.

According to the battlefield reports, infantrymen of 58 Division completed their three-day southbound march along the coast this morning when they linked up with their comrades of 59 Division on the Mullaittivu frontage.

Meanwhile, over 4,500 civilians held at hostage by the LTTE were rescued by troops during yesterday's operations.

Among the refugees were many family members of senior LTTE leaders. Also, there were many junior LTTE cadres, including suicide bombers who surrendered themselves to the soldiers.

Separately, troops marching southwards along the eastern bank of the Nanthikadal lagoon rescued over 4,550 civilians yesterday. Over 300 others sought refuge with the 59 Division soldiers.

The total number of people sought refuge with the soldiers during last 24 hours is approximately over 9,000, the army said, adding that a total of 17,000 tamil civilians have crossed over to the government held areas since Thursday.

Intercepted LTTE radio transmissions confirmed 19 LTTE cadres were killed and 24 others injured during confrontations at different places.

Meanwhile, 58 Division troops battling the tigers on the coast yesterday collected 32 bodies of LTTE cadres.    Troops also liberated the Kariyalamulla Tsunami relief village.

The village is the only place where permanently built houses can be found between Velayamadam and Vellamullivaikkal areas.

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