April 8, 2009 / 10:07 AM / 11 years ago

Sri Lanka military sounds last warning to Tigers

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka’s military on Wednesday broadcast a final surrender offer to Tamil Tiger rebels surrounded in a tiny strip of coast, urging them drop their guns and free tens of thousands of civilians or be destroyed.

After a punishing three-day battle in which the military said it killed more than 500 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels, the army sealed the remnants of the separatist group off in a no-fire zone where they are mixed among civilians.

Using a public address system from the edge of the army-declared no-fire zone, soldiers blared the last call to a group that has fought Asia’s longest-running civil war and is on the verge of defeat as a conventional force.

“We have given them the truth. We announced that the LTTE must stop holding the people, and urged them to surrender. This is the last time they have to come and surrender,” military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said.

He did not say when the offer of surrender expired.

The Tigers, whose fighters wear vials of cyanide around their necks to be taken in case of capture, have vowed not to give up their fight to create a separate state for Sri Lanka’s minority Tamils. They could not be immediately reached for comment.

The LTTE has rebuffed numerous past calls from the United Nations and others to free the civilians. The world body has urged the military to proceed carefully when making their final assault, to prevent unnecessary civilian casualties.

The government has pledged to fight with maximum caution.

Editing by Sanjeev Miglani

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