COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka’s government on Friday rejected a Tamil Tiger offer to abide by the terms of a newly-scrapped six-year ceasefire and vowed to push on with a military campaign to crush the rebels.
The Tigers said on Thursday they were willing to implement the terms of a truce Nordic monitors say they have violated thousands of times, but also said they were ready to face a full-scale war if the government wages one.
But the 2002 truce broke down on the ground into renewed war two years ago, with both sides accused of serial violations, and the rebel gesture was too little, too late.
“While the CFA (ceasefire agreement) was on they attacked civilian targets. So what they are trying to do is take cover under this and then unleash terror activities,” Keheliya Rambukwella, a minister and government defense spokesman, told Reuters.
“We will be going on with our liberation operations. We need to liberate the whole country from terrorism. We will flush them out.”
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who want to create an independent state in north and east Sri Lanka, were not immediately available for comment.
Raging violence continued on Friday, when air force jets bombed a Tamil Tiger naval wing base in the island’s far north, the military said, adding troops killed 10 rebels in the northwestern district of Mannar.
The military says it has killed around 200 insurgents since the government announced a week ago it was scrapping the tattered truce.
There were no independent accounts of the fighting or how many people were killed. Analysts say both sides tend to exaggerate enemy losses and play down their own.
The Tigers said on Thursday they were “shocked and disappointed” the government had scrapped the truce, which the state says the rebels simply used to buy time to regroup and rearm. The rebels said they were ready to implement all provisions of the failed pact “100 percent”.
However critics say it was an empty promise from a group widely outlawed as terrorists and blamed for a succession of ambushes, bombings and assassinations while the truce was on.
Asked if the Tigers would no longer violate the ceasefire terms, rebel peace secretariat head S. Puleedevan told Reuters on Thursday: “We are not saying that. What we are saying is we tried our best to implement (the truce). “If full-scale war is thrust upon us, we will face it and the Sri Lankan armed forces will face the same fate that they have faced in 1997/1998,” he added, referring to the bloodiest phase of a 25-year war.
The government says it will wipe out the Tigers militarily, setting the stage for what many fear will be a bloody battle for the north as a death toll of around 70,000 people since the war erupted in 1983 climbs daily.
The government’s move to annul the ceasefire, which technically expires on January 16, has shocked the international community and is seen ruining any hope of resurrecting peace talks any time soon.
Writing by Simon Gardner; Editing by Alex Richardson
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