Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa paid a surprise visit to the former LTTE administrative hub Kilinochchi on Thursday even as the military stepped up operations, killing at least 19 rebels.
Rajapaksa visited Kilinochchi, the first visit by any Lankan head of state in the last three decades, to meet the troops stationed there.
Located some 350 km north of capital Colombo, Kilinochchi was the seat and symbol of the parallel government that LTTE ran for several years with banks, offices and schools. Its capture by the army on January 2 marked the beginning of the rapid decline of the LTTE as a conventional fighting force. The government now claims that the remaining leaders and cadres of the Tamil Tigers were now confined to a 15 sq km area off the north-eastern coast of Mullaitivu.
And Rajapaksa’s visit seemed to drive home the point that militarily the LTTE was completely broken. More than 18,000 rebels have been killed in the last few years of fighting.
“The President made this goodwill visit during the traditional Sinhala and Hindu New Year period to meet with the troops stationed there,’’ a statement from the Presidential Secretariat said. He was accompanied by the defence secretary and the service commanders.