Colombo: Sections of top Tamil Tiger leadership on Wednesday began to surrender before rapidly advancing Sri Lankan forces, signalling an imminent collapse of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE, after a relentless, two-decade long battle.
Decisive assault: Sri Lankan ethnic Tamil civilians arriving in a government-controlled area in Putumattalan on Tuesday. AP/Sri Lankan Army
Two top Tamil Tiger leaders, including its former spokesman Daya Master and George, an aide to slain political head Tamilchelvan, surrendered to Sri Lankan forces at Putumathalan, defence ministry spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said.
In Mullaitivu, two top LTTE cadres, identified as Kaladen and Wijayan were killed in an operation by army commandos in east Putumathalan.
The government “strongly believes” that Tamil Tiger supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran and his other top aides were still in the area and had not escaped, Rambukwella said, claiming LTTE “had lost all its military capabilities”.
“They are fighting on their last legs and it is a losing battle. The only way for them to stop this military operation is to lay down arms,” he said, as troops pushed deeper into the ‘no-fire zone’, the last patch of the 18 sq. km land held by the Tigers as thousands of trapped Tamils civilians continued to flee the northern war zone.
Over 95,000 civilians have so far crossed over to government controlled ‘safe zone´ till this morning, a defence ministry spokesman said.
Pro-LTTE website Tamilnet made no mention of surrenders or fighting trends. It merely said that in government forces shelling a church had been damaged and that many people who had taken shelter there were killed.
The rapid Sri Lankan advance came as the first-ever satellite imagery of the embattled zone showed that tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were squeezed into the last small strip of LTTE-controlled land.
The imagery released by the US state department shows about 25,000 tents packed into a coastal strip, prompting US and Red Cross officials to ask Colombo for a pause to enable women and children escape the conflict zone.
Human rights groups say LTTE is holding many people against their will and using them as human shields. They have also accused Lankan forces of indiscriminate shelling.