'Air Force will continue to target Tiger hideouts'

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Colombo, Nov 5: As the Tamil Tiger rebels were making preparations to conduct the funeral of its slain senior leader S P Thamilselvan in the rebel-held Wanni region, Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake has warned that the Sri Lankan Air Force would continue to target the hideouts of the LTTE leaders in the region.

''Our Security Forces are targeting the hiding places and safe-houses of terrorist leaders to deal a mortal blow to the Tigers. They will not stop the relentless pursuit of terrorists,'' the State-run Daily News quoted Prime Minister Wickremanayake as saying at a function in Ingiriya in the Southern Province.

He also said the Government did not want to go in for 'a fresh ceasefire' with the rebels, but was 'ready for unconditional talks, as it has always been'.

''It is not the Government that left the negotiating table. It is the LTTE which spurned the peace drive. Nevertheless, the Government will be ready if they want to negotiate, but we will not stop retaliating terror attacks even while discussions are going on,'' the Prime Minister added.

His remarks have come at a time when various rebel commanders were talking of 'retaliations, consequences and fitting replies' for the aerial attack that killed their political wing chief S P Thamilselvan on Friday.

Pro-LTTE websites have quoted LTTE's Sea Tiger wing head, Soosai and Peace Secretariat head S Pulidevan as making those references in their funeral speeches.

In his condolence message the elusive rebel chief, Velupillai Prabhakaran himself has vowed to continue the struggle for a separate state while describing the death of Thamilselvan as an 'an unparalleled loss' to the outfit.

However, Prime Minister Wickremanayake has reiterated the government's position that it would go all-out 'to eliminate LTTE terrorism and bring peace to the country'.

''Our Forces are fully geared to face the enemy which conducts cowardly attacks without coming out into the open. It is the duty of all patriotic citizens to encourage heroic Forces personnel,'' the Prime Minister said.

Political and defence analysts view the latest position taken by the warring parties as a clear indication for further escalation of violence, which has already led to the killing of over 5000 people and combatants since December last year.


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