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Dec 31, 2007 at 07:11pm IST

3,000 LTTE cadres left, chief maybe dead: Lanka

Colombo: Sri Lankan Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has hinted that Velupillai Prabhakaran, chief of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), might have been killed in an air raid on his bunker on November 26.

"Our intelligence sources believe that he was seriously injured or killed. It is obvious that the LTTE will not divulge this for a long period," Rajapaksa told the government-run Sunday Observer.

He discounted the validity of the pictures put out by the LTTE of Prabhakaran delivering his annual Heroes' Day address over TV and radio November 27, a day after he was supposedly injured or killed in an air raid.

"The LTTE can also publish pictures but (the pictures do) not give any indication that he is alive, until he comes for a public meeting," Rajapaksa said on Sunday.

In another interview in the same paper, Sri Lanka's army chief Lt. General Sarath Fonseka said Prabhakaran could be dead within six months and the military's aim is to kill 10 rebels every day.

Fonseka was quoted by the paper as saying the Lankan army has occupied LTTE’s forward defence lines and surrounded the northern rebel held Wanni rebel base.

''The LTTE could not prevent losing their remaining 3,000 cadres and there is no assurance that the LTTE leader V Prabhakaran would survive for the next six months as the Sri Lanka Air Force plans to attack all the LTTE bases,'' Fonseka said.

''Our daily target is to kill at least 10 LTTE terrorists and for the last few months over 500 LTTE (members) have been killed by the armed forces,'' Fonseka said. ''We have weakened the LTTE by 50 per cent or more and we are confident we can go that extra mile in the coming year.''

According to Fonseka, the LTTE is left with only 3,000 cadres.

Sri Lanka's air force has bombed a Tamil Tiger training base in the north and nine rebels and two soldiers were killed in ground battles, the military said on Monday.

The air raids in the district of Mullaitivu and fighting in the northern district of Vavuniya and north western district of Mannar were the latest engagements in intensified fighting between government forces and LTTE.

(With IANS and Reuters)

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