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Tamil Tiger Political Leader Killed in Air Force Raid


Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels say the leader of their political wing has been killed in a bombing raid by the country's air force. VOA correspondent Steve Herman reports from New Delhi.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, known as the LTTE or Tamil Tigers, say political leader died during the early morning air raid. The rebels say five other leaders were also killed.

National Peace Council executive director Jehan Perera says it is unusual for the air force to make such a direct hit on a vital target.

"The Sri Lankan air force is not known for its pinpoint accuracy of its bombings," he said. "But it is quite possible that the government was targeting senior level LTTE leaders and got him."

Perera says the successful attack will do little to alter the long ethnic war.

"The fact that the government was able to kill Mr. Thamilselvan, an LTTE leader, would be politically advantageous to take its message to the people that its war is proceeding successfully," he said. "But in terms of actual military impact I doubt whether this is very significant."

But the death of such a senior leader is not likely to be taken lightly by the Tigers.

"He was a very benign looking, smiling person who was the public face of the LTTE," said Perera. "So it's a very big blow to them. And I would assume the LTTE would wish to retaliate in the same mode."

The Tigers have a long pattern of political assassination, and are responsible for the deaths of dozens of Sri Lankan officials, including a president of the country and former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Tamil rebels have been fighting for a separate homeland for Sri Lanka's Tamil minority group for more than 25 years. The conflict has taken an estimated 70,000 lives in the past 25 years, and human rights groups accuse both sides of committing abuses against civilians.

Since last year there have been near-daily clashes on land and at sea resulting in the deaths of an estimated 5,000 people.

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