The separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) have lost 9000 cadres in the past two years and is set to lose its conventional fighting capabilities in less than a year, Sri Lanka’s top army officer claimed on Monday.
However, because of the group’s support base among people who believe in Tamil nationalism and among the Tamil diaspora, the LTTE might continue as an insurgency in Sri Lanka forever, Lieutenant-General Sarath Fonseka said.
“We are killing 400-500 of them every month. In the worst case scenario, only 5000 of them are alive. They are wilting… their capabilities are going down. But you might never be able to kill all LTTE men. There are people who believe in Tamil nationalism. It might continue as an insurgency forever,” Fonseka said during an interaction with Colombo-based foreign correspondents.
“Do not forget what they (LTTE) were two years ago. At present they have lost that capability and in less than one year they will lose more. We will have control over larger areas,” he added. Fonseka said that since August 2006, the armed forces have killed more than 2000 Tamil Tigers in the East and about 6000-7000 cadres in the North.
“But the LTTE have recruited more cadres including school children. Even Sea Tigers and political cadres are now fighting on the front line,” he said.
In Mannar, which the armed forces claimed to have captured entirely on Sunday, Fonseka said the fighting was intense. “It took nine months to capture Mannar district, the so called ‘rice bowl’. The terrain was open and for two months it was flooded,” the senior most officer said.
Fonseka said according to intelligence reports there would be 1500 LTTE cadres in Jaffna, 1500 more Mannar and adjoining Vavuniya and another 2000 cadres left in Killinochi.
About the casualties suffered by the armed forces, he said 1700 personnel had been killed since August 2006. Of the 4000 injured, more than half has returned to the front, Fonseka added.
A positive for the armed forces, Fonseka said was the recruitment rate. More than 16000 men have joined the army till now in 2008. Last year, 32000 had joined, Fonseka said.