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Eight Tiger rebels killed as Sri Lanka marks victory day

world Updated: May 20, 2009 23:33 IST

PTI
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Eight LTTE rebels, who had evaded the military offensive in the northeast of the island, were killed by troops in shootouts on Wednesday, as the UN asked for "unfettered access" to civilians camped near battlefield.

Small groups of LTTE militants still remaining in the eastern Batticaloa and Ampara districts staged attacks on the security forces, but were gunned down even as the Sri Lankans marked the end of the decades-long separatist conflict with a national holiday.

"Close on the heels of the humiliating military defeat in the north, a five-member team of Tiger terrorists miserably failed in their mission early Wednesday when troops shot them down," the army said in a statement.

They were killed in Batticloa while three others were gunned down in a confrontation in Ampara, the statement added.

Diplomatic efforts to alleviate the plight of some 250,000 civilians displaced in the last few months by intense fighting also gathered pace with India despatching National Security Adviser M K Narayanan and Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon today for talks with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon, who is likely to visit Sri Lanka later this week, met Sri Lankan Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva and asked for access to his agencies to the civilians stranded near the battle-field.

Ban's request came as UN today estimated that between 80,000 to 100,000 people were killed in nearly three decade of ethnic war between the government forces and the LTTE.

This is the first time the UN has come out with the estimates of people killed in the war.

Meanwhile, Ban's special envoy Vijay Nambiar, who is in Colombo to inquire into the dire conditions in which the thousands displaced are being kept, was unable to fly to the welfare camps in the northern Vavuniya district because of bad weather.

Shops and offices were closed islandwide today to celebrate the end of the military push to decimate the LTTE, but the army said it was keeping up the search for more bodies and weapons in the northeastern Mullaitivu district, the site of the last battles.

Hundreds of soldiers were combing the Muliyawaikal area where the body of Tiger supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran was found after the final fight in the jungle on Monday, defence officials said.

"They are doing clearing operations," defence spokesman Lakshman Hulugalle said as more bodies were gathered for identification.

The bodies of more than 400 dead LTTE combatants, including several female fighters, have been recovered from the small pocket of land where they made their last stand on Monday, according to military officials.

Prabhakaran's eldest son, Charles Anthony, was among those killed in the area, but the military had no information about the leader's wife Madiwadani or their other two children.

"The process of identifying the other Tiger dead bodies is now going on and we want to see if any other close relatives or associates of Prabhakaran are among the dead," a military official said.

Defence ministry officials said the bodies of seven more senior Tiger leaders had been identified by this afternoon, adding that troops remained on alert for revenge attacks in the wake of the killings of the LTTE leaders.