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Sri Lanka nearing end of rebels' challenge: PM
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08:19, April 08, 2009

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The Sri Lankan government said Tuesday that it is on the verge of completely crushing the challenge of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels in the island.

"We are about to hit the final nail on the coffin (of the rebels) and bury them forever," Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake told parliament.

The military in the meantime said their mopping up operations in Puthukkudiyiruppu, the rebels' last stronghold, was being continued.

"Having cleared Puthukkudiyiruppu on Sunday the troops are continuing their consolidation operations. They are on the look out for hidden LTTE members and their weapons left behind," military spokesman Udaya Nanayakkara said.

The rebels lost over 500 cadres in three days of fighting over the weekend in Puthukkudiyiruppu which for decades remained the LTTE's operational headquarters.

Analysts say the fall of Puthukkudiyiruppu has signaled the end of the LTTE's over two-decade-old separatist campaign.

The government now blamed the LTTE of mixing up with civilians in the 20-sq-km no fire zone declared by the government at Puttumatalan area in the northeastern coast.

A concerned international community has pleaded with both the government and the rebels to care for the safety of civilians amid allegations that a large number of them are receiving injuries or getting killed in the crossfire.

More than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict since the mid-1980s in one of the world's longest civil wars.


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