|Tamil Tigers suspected of buying time|
|Thursday, 26 February 2009|
NEW DELHI – As Sri Lanka's military edges closer to a victory over the Tamil Tigers, a government official called the rebels' recent call for a ceasefire little more than a strategy to buy time to rearm and strike back.
Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona said the government has evidence the Tigers recently tried to buy anti-aircraft missiles and thermobaric munitions on the international market.
Thermobaric weapons release high-temperature energy bursts – which have been compared to a fireball combined with a shock wave – that can incinerate anything in their path.
The weapon's chemical mixture can also force the oxygen out of the target area, literally suffocating people in the immediate vicinity.
Kohona said the evidence was obtained through phone taps and other means. He wouldn't be more specific and said the Sri Lankan government may provide more details about its newly obtained evidence "when the war is over."
The United Nations' top official in Sri Lanka could not be reached to confirm Kohona's allegations.
"We know that the Tigers are trying to obtain missiles from international sellers to neutralize our air force," Kohona said in a phone interview from Colombo, the capital.
"They don't want a ceasefire. They want to regroup and hit back with greater force. This is what they've done in the past."
He said in the past week, Sri Lanka's military forces have uncovered two .122-mm artillery howitzers buried by retreating Tiger forces.
"They were barely used," he said. "We know they continue to go out and try to obtain more weapons."
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam wrote to the UN and a group of countries Monday to suggest they were prepared to agree to a ceasefire with the Sri Lankan government, but would not lay down arms and surrender.
The offer came two days after a pair of rebel planes were shot down Friday night while they flew over Colombo.
One of the planes crashed into a government tax office, killing two people and injuring 40.
"It was really their last gasp," a Western diplomat said of the attack. "We were surprised they were able to do it."
The diplomat was sceptical of Kohona's claim the Tigers would use a ceasefire to rearm and fight back. "They just don't have the ability to do that," the diplomat said.
"This isn't like other situations in the past. Their control over territory is virtually nil."
As the Tigers are forced into a shrinking patch of dense jungle in the north, international attention is increasingly shifting to the welfare of the estimated 250,000 civilians trapped between the rebels and government soldiers.
Civilians are being used as human shields, international aid agencies say, with the Tigers shooting anyone who tries to leave.
On Feb. 12, Sri Lankan presidential adviser Basil Rajapakse addressed a meeting of Western diplomats in Colombo and promised food and medicine would be sent to civilians trapped in northern Sri Lanka.
Shipments began the following day, sent via tugboats, and have continued every other day since, Kohona said.
The government has agreed to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to assist with processing civilians who escape the war zone. Red Cross and other aid workers will also be allowed access to secured camps where displaced citizens are being kept.
|Last Updated ( Friday, 09 October 2009 )|
|< Prev||Next >|