Rajapaksa warns LTTE to free Tamil civilians or face ban


Colombo : Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa Monday warned the Tamil Tigers to allow thousands of Tamils living in their zone to move to government-held areas or face a ban as a terrorist outfit, official sources said.

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Rajapaksa, who is also commander-in-chief of the armed forces and the defence minister, made the statement while addressing administrative officials, professionals, groups of clergy and several others here Monday.

“President Rajapaksa today called on the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) that with the dawn of 2009 it should release all innocent Tamil people it is holding hostage and in bondage using them as human shields and allow them to come to the safe areas provided for them by the government and the security forces,” the president’s office quoted him as saying.

“Failure to do this would lead the government proscribing the LTTE and they (rebels) will face all its consequences as a terrorist organisation thereafter,” he said.

The LTTE is already listed as a terrorist group in many countries including India and the US besides the 27-member European Union.

The president also vowed to pursue the war against the LTTE, which is now battling the advancing military in its last strongholds in the island’s north.

“We will ensure that 2009 (becomes the) ‘year of heroism’ for the troops and (ensure) the wiping out of LTTE terrorism from the pages of history,” Rajapaksa said.

Rajapaksa’s remarks came as heavy fighting raged in the districts of Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu.

The LTTE has been fighting to carve out a separate state for Tamils in the north and east of the island for a quarter century.