Military: Troops kill 3 Tamil Tigers leaders

Sri Lanka's defense ministry says this handout photo shows troops with a captured Tamil Tiger craft Thursday.
The Sri Lankan military said Monday that they killed three top leaders of the Tamil Tigers and the son of the rebel group’s founder.

CNN was unable to confirm the account because of safety and access reasons. The deaths were the result of continuing armed encounters with the last remnants of the rebel group, who are now cornered in a small stretch of land in the country’s north, according to the military. The offensive against the rebel group is in its last stages, the Sri Lankan government has said. The rebels said Sunday that they have decided to “silence our guns.” If they follow through, the action will potentially mark the end of a bloody civil war that has lasted 25 years and killed as many as 70,000 people. The rebel leaders whose deaths were announced Monday included the head of the Tigers’ political wing.

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While authorities said they have killed Charles Anthony, the son of the group’s founder, there has been no word on the whereabouts of the man himself, Vellupillai Prabhakaran. In an “urgent statement” posted Sunday on the pro-rebel Web site, a Tiger spokesman said the battle had reached “its bitter end.” “It is our people who are dying now from bombs, shells, illness and hunger,” said spokesman Selvarasa Pathmanathan. “We cannot permit any more harm to befall them. We remain with one last choice — to remove the last weak excuse of the enemy for killing our people. We have decided to silence our guns,” he said. It is not the first time that the rebels have called for an end to fighting when backed into a corner by the Sri Lankan military. Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa is expected to announce that “military operations” against the Tiger rebels have ended in an address to the nation from Parliament on Tuesday. Caught in the crossfire are thousands of civilians, international aid workers say. The government says the area contains only rebels. Watch aid agencies fear for Sri Lanka ยป

The Tigers say 25,000 civilians are dead or dying, according to a rebel identified as Col. Soosai on The rebels — formally known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam — have fought for an independent state for minority Tamils in Sri Lanka since July 1983.