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Sri Lankan armed forces help Col Karuna flee

The leader of the breakaway faction of the LTTE has fled, possibly with the help of Lankan forces, reports PK Balachanddran.

india Updated: Apr 13, 2004 16:29 IST
PK Balachanddran
PK Balachanddran
PTI
Hindustantimes

The leader of the breakaway faction of the LTTE, Eastern Commander Col Karuna, has dispersed his forces and fled to an unknown destination outside Eastern Sri Lanka, possibly with the help of the Sri Lankan armed forces.

Informed sources in Batticaloa told Hindustan Times on Tuesday that the 6,000 strong fighting force under Karuna, with 2,000 of them supposedly 'ready to die for him', was finally dispersed by himself, by bursting bombs.

Karuna's revolt, which began with high hopes and international publicity on March 3, ended ignominiously 38 days later, with the leader meekly seeking refuge with the Sri Lankan armed forces, which he had fought tooth and nail since the mid 1980s.

Venuga, a 24 year old female cadre who had been leader of the Womens' Administrative Wing, told the BBC Tamil service and the Europe-based IBC Tamil radio, that Karuna had assembled his cadres in Beirut Base and asked them to go their separate ways. While the cadres were wondering if this was Karuna's ruse to test their loyalty, he himself threw grenades to force the cadres to flee. And flee they did.

Earlier, seeing the military balance tilting against Karuna, hundreds of parents of child soldiers had gone to his bases and demanded that their children be released. Hundreds were released. But many had nowhere to go.

The parents had wanted to take advantage of Prabhakaran's offer to let the child soldiers go back to the parents. He had said that he would facilitate their return to their families.

But some senior cadres who had spent a number of years of the LTTE have decided not to go home but to re-join the Prabhakaran group. Venuga herself had joined the force led by Ramesh, the new commander for Batticaloa and Amparai, appointed by Prabhakaran.

Sources in Batticaloa said that Karuna and eight of his followers were flown out of Beirut Base by choppers of the Sri Lankan armed forces. But this could not be confirmed. On Sunday, there were rumours that Karuna had been brought to Colombo and flown to a secret destination abroad.

However, it is reliably learnt that the Sri Lankan armed forces had rescued Karuna and were keeping him in a safe place somewhere in Sri Lanka.

Journalists who visited Kokkadicholai, Karuna's political headquarters on Sunday, found the place virtually deserted. Stragglers said that Karuna's camps were like an open prison. The cadres were not allowed to listen to the radio or read newspapers. Arasi, a cadre from the northern district of Jaffna, said that cadres from the North were not trusted.

Karuna had banned Prabhakaran's pictures and portraits. He and his men also spoke ill of the Supremo. But the cadres were not influenced. Used to beginning their daily work after taking an oath in front of a picture of Prabhakaran, they continued this practice secretly, using pictures of the leader they had taken care to hide.