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Sri Lankan President Declares Military Defeat of Rebels

Although sporadic fighting was reported to be continuing (early Sunday) on the very last patch of land held by the Tamil Tiger rebels, Sri Lanka's President has already proclaimed the group's military defeat. The fate of the leadership of the rebels, who have waged a quarter century civil war for an independent ethnic homeland, remains unknown.

Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa, speaking to a developing nations summit in Jordan,Saturday, said he would be returning home to a country freed from the barbaric acts of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. "My government, with the total commitment of our armed forces, has, in an unprecedented humanitarian operation, finally defeated the LTTE militarily," he said.

He is expected to make a formal declaration of victory after arriving back on his home soil.

Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara tells VOA News two Army divisions moving from opposite directions merged (Saturday), trapping the Tamil Tigers on a narrow and short patch of coastline. "With the troops moving and linking up we have completely confined the LTTE Sea Tigers onto ground. So that's a significant victory. With that we have confined LTTE to less than a two-square-kilometer area and surrounded them on ground from all directions," he said.

Defense officials say two of the top LTTE commanders died in the end-stage confrontations with troops but there has been no word on the fate of the group's founder and leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran.

The official Sri Lankan Broadcasting Corporation reports an explosion of a bunker in which top rebels had taken refuge. But there is no confirmation on whether the LTTE leader was inside or the cause of the blast.

The military says 25,000 Tamils have fled the latest fighting and are now in government care.

As fighting escalated in recent days, Red Cross access to the combat zone was cut off.

The United Nations expressed grave concern for the tens of thousands of additional civilians it says remain trapped there.

A pro-rebel news service quotes a volunteer doctor in the combat zone saying 100 more civilians died Saturday, up to 3,000 bodies were strewn across the area and more people, huddled in bunkers due to shelling were dying without food.

With access not permitted to the fighting the accounts of either side cannot be independently verified.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is warning Sri Lanka it will face consequences for not halting the fighting and refusing to allow humanitarian access to the combat zone.

The Tamil Tigers have fought a civil war for a quarter century in hopes of establishing an independent ethnic homeland on the Sinhalese-dominated island.

Most of Sri Lanka's Tamils are Hindus with a significant number of Christians. The Sinhalese are primarily Buddhists.

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