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Sri Lanka Vows to Defeat Rebels as it Observes 60th Independence Anniversary


The Sri Lankan government signaled its determination to defeat the Tamil Tiger rebels, as the country observed the 60th anniversary of its independence from Britain with a display of military might. Anjana Pasricha reports from New Delhi, tight security surrounded the celebrations after attacks killed nearly 40 people in the past few days, including a bomb Monday that killed at least one soldier.

Troops marched and tanks rolled down the streets of Colombo as Sri Lanka marked its Independence Day on Monday.

Against this backdrop of military power, signaled that his government is determined to crush the Tamil Tiger rebels.

In a speech, he said the challenge before the country is to defeat terrorism. He said security forces are achieving unprecedented victories against terrorism.

Cabinet minister and government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella says the government has decided to defeat the rebels on the battleground instead of negotiating.

"At various stages, the peace negotiations, cease-fires have been introduced, but no results, no tangible results (we) have been able to obtain through those…. Therefore, we have made that decision that we will be going ahead with defeating terrorism on an all-out scale," Rambukwella said.

The rebels struggle for an independent homeland for the minority Tamil community has led to a bloody civil strife in the country for more than a quarter century.

Last month, the government formally ended a truce with the rebels, overriding the concerns of the international community, which tried to persuade Colombo to end the conflict through peace negotiations.

Sri Lankan officials have repeatedly expressed confidence that the rebels will be defeated by the end of the year.

Minister Rambukwella says the government will be able to evict the rebels from their bases in the Tamil-dominated north.

"We will be clearing the north, we have already started it, and … strategically, and very systematically and determinedly we are on course of defeating terrorism," Rambukwella said.

Monday's ceremonies were held amid a massive security clampdown. In recent months, Colombo has witnessed a wave of suicide bomb attacks, blamed on the rebels.

Hours before the celebrations started, a bomb destroyed an electricity transformer, and another blast killed at least one person. On Sunday 11 people were killed and dozens wounded when a suicide bomber blew herself up at Colombo's main railway station. A day earlier a bomb on a bus killed 18 people in another town.

Analysts say the continuing bomb attacks show that the government's strategy of defeating the rebels on the battlefield is unlikely to end the strife that has already claimed nearly 70,000 lives.

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