Sri Lankan soldiers cool 248.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Four top Tamil Tiger officials including the supreme leader's eldest son were killed in Sri Lanka's northern war zone, the military announced Monday, after the insurgents said their quarter-century fight had reached its "bitter end."
With top rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran still at large, the threat of renewed guerrilla warfare remained, but Sri Lankans already had begun to celebrate the stunning collapse of one of the world's most sophisticated insurgencies.
Thousands gathered in the streets of the capital, Colombo, to dance, sing and let off fireworks after a Tiger official Selvarasa Pathmanathan released a statement Sunday admitting the group's defeat.
"This battle has reached its bitter end," Pathmanathan said in a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press. "It is our people who are dying now from bombs, shells, illness and hunger. We cannot permit any more harm to befall them. We remain with one last choice - to remove the last weak excuse of the enemy for killing our people. We have decided to silence our guns."
On Monday, military spokesman Udaya Nanayakkara said troops had found the body of Prabhakaran's eldest son, Charles Anthony, who was said to be the head of the rebels' air wing.
Prabhakaran has three children and Charles Anthony - named after a rebel leader who died earlier in the war - was the only one thought to be fighting along with his father.
Separately, the military said special forces found the bodies of the rebels' political wing leader, Balasingham Nadesan, the head of the rebels' peace secretariat, Seevaratnam Puleedevan, and one of the top military leaders, known as Ramesh.
Their bodies were found during mop-up operations in the last remaining Tiger enclave, the Defense Ministry said in a statement.
The military's claims could not be independently verified as the journalists and observers are barred from the war zone.
In an interview with Britain's Channel 4 news, Pathmanathan said he had spoken with Prabhakaran personally and that the rebel leader remained inside the war zone.
The government forces in recent months ousted the rebels from all their northern strongholds and by Sunday the insurgents were cornered into a stretch of 0.4-square-mile (1-square-kilometer).
The rebels have been fighting since 1983 for a separate state for Sri Lanka's ethnic Tamil minority after years of marginalization at the hands of the Sinhalese majority. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the fighting.