|Sri Lanka elections back government offensive on rebels|
|Monday, 16 February 2009|
COLOMBO (AFP) – Sri Lanka's ruling party has won widespread public support for its war against the Tamil Tigers, local election results showed on Sunday, as the military braced for a final assault on the rebels.
President Mahinda Rajapakse's Freedom Alliance easily won two provincial councils which went to the polls Saturday, according to provisional counting.
Rajapakse had turned the vote into a referendum on his military campaign to crush separatist Tamil Tiger guerrillas who are cornered in the north-east of the island.
"The results showed that the people supported the government's war effort," defeated main opposition candidate S. B. Dissanayake said.
The president has said he hoped to defeat the Tamil Tigers within days, ending the island's decades-long ethnic conflict.
Officials said the air force on Sunday destroyed at least three boats of the Tamil Tigers off the coast of Mullaittivu district, where the fighting is concentrated.
The state-run Sunday Observer reported that the elusive rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was still in Sri Lanka and has been preparing his fighters to launch a last-ditch counter attack.
Prabhakaran, 54, and his eldest son Charles Anthony have blended in with about 100,000 civilians trapped in the conflict zone, it said.
The report said two guerrillas arrested last month disclosed that their leader had not fled despite widespread speculation he had escaped by sea.
"Tiger leader and his son are still living among the civilians in Puthukkudiriruppu and are engaged in making more and more terror plans to reverse the military victories," the Observer quoted the two rebels as saying.
Last month, Sri Lankan military commanders said Prabhakaran may have left the island as his retreating forces were driven back into a small area of jungle.
Sri Lanka's navy has stepped up patrols along the island's north-eastern coast to track attempts by rebel leaders to escape, while India and Malaysia have put ports on alert.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) here said they were preparing to evacuate another batch of wounded and sick from Mullaittivu on Monday.
ICRC spokeswoman Sophie Romanans said they had already helped bring out 745 war wounded, other patients and carers last week.
The ICRC had said a "humanitarian catastrophe" was unfolding in the region where the government says thousands of civilians are held as a human shield by the Tamil Tiger guerrillas.
The United Nations, the US and Britain have asked the Tigers to allow civilians to leave the conflict zone while urging the Colombo government to declare a temporary truce. Both have rejected the call.
On Saturday, the defense ministry accused the Tigers of a grenade attack that killed a woman and wounded 13 people who were trying to flee the shrinking area still under rebel control.
Claims by either side can not be verified as the government severely restricts access to the war zone.
|Last Updated ( Friday, 09 October 2009 )|
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