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Defeated Tigers will not be allowed to regroup: Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka's army chief vowed that the LTTE would not be allowed to regroup and pledged that the rebels, once seen as one of the world's deadliest guerrilla outfits, would soon be forgotten.

world Updated: May 17, 2009 09:58 IST

Sri Lanka's army chief vowed on Sunday the Tamil Tigers would not be allowed to regroup and pledged that the rebels, once seen as one of the world's deadliest guerrilla outfits, would soon be forgotten.

The government said a massive offensive against the separatist Tigers was all but complete, with the entire island under its control for the first time in years but for a minuscule pocket of jungle on the northeast coast.

"Sri Lanka's military will ensure that there is no future for the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam)," Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka said in an interview published in the state-run Sunday Observer.

"The LTTE will be forgotten soon," added the army chief, who led the successful military offensive against the Tamil Tigers.

He said President Mahinda Rajapakse's firm stand that there would be no peace talks unless the Tigers scrapped their armed campaign was key to the successful crushing of the once-formidable militants.

"The firm decision of the political hierarchy not to go for talks with the LTTE terrorists until they lay down arms had contributed significantly to all these war victories," he said.

Fonseka, who narrowly escaped a Tiger assassination bid in April 2006, said the defeat of the rebel outfit had shattered the image of the invincibility of the Tigers, known for their devastating suicide bombings and high-profile strikes.

Millions of Tamils abroad had boosted the image of Tiger supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran, 54, but his guerrilla army could not stand up against the overhauled Sri lankan troops, Fonseka said.

He said he had ordered a major shake-up in the command structure of the army before launching a major thrust which began in August 2006 with the flushing out of the Tigers from the east of the island.

"I restructured the army and changed almost all the aspects of the organisation," he said. "The main obstacle in our military thrust was that the LTTE had enough firepower.

"Because of this the soldiers had made lots of sacrifices from their lives to limbs."

Fonseka also launched a successful recruitment campaign which saw the number of soldiers enlisting rising 10-fold in the past two years, according to military estimates.

At the height of their powers in the mid-1990s, the Tigers controlled nearly a third of the island's territory.