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Sri Lankan president returns to hero's welcome

world Updated: May 17, 2009 09:23 IST

AFP
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Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse arrived back in Colombo on Sunday after a trip abroad during which he announced that his troops had defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels after 37 years of bloodshed.

The president was welcomed by his cabinet at the airport, and was blessed by Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and Muslim clergy.

Hundreds of supporters waved flags at the tightly guarded airport and set off firecrackers across the country to celebrate his return.

Addressing the G11 summit in Jordan on Saturday, Rajapakse said he was returning home as a leader who had "crushed" the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which fought for a separate state since 1972.

"My government, with the total commitment of our armed forces, has in an unprecedented humanitarian operation finally defeated the LTTE militarily," he said.

He said government troops had rescued 210,000 civilians who were "being used as human shields by the LTTE."

Defence officials reported that there was heavy fighting with the remnants of the Tamil Tigers on Saturday night.