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Apr 28, 2009 at 08:27pm IST

Karuna breaks fast as Lanka halts offensive

Chennai: Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam (DMK) supremo Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi has broken his fast after the Indian government intervened in the Sri Lankan Tamil crisis.

Karunanidhi broke his fast on Monday afternoon after he was assured that the Sri Lankan armed forced have stopped their military offensive against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

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"I decided to stop my fast after I heard the news that the Sri Lankan government has decided on cessation of hostilities against the Tamils. I feel happy on hearing the news," said Karunanidhi.

The DMK chief started the fast on Monday morning to protest the offensive against the LTTE. He was protesting at the Anna Memorial in Chennai.

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"Despite the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) calling for a ceasefire, the Sri Lankan government has done nothing. Rajapakse (Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse) has killed so many Tamils. Let him consider me also. I am fasting for the Sri Lankan Tamil cause," said Karunandhi after starting his protest on Monday morning.

A statement issued by Sri Lanka government ending the offensive against the LTTE said: "The government of Sri Lanka has decided that combat operations have reached their conclusion. Our security forces have been instructed to end the use of heavy caliber guns, combat aircraft and aerial weapons which could cause civilian causalities. Our security forces will confine their attempts to rescuing civilians who are held hostage and give foremost priority to saving civilians."

"The government has decided not to use heavy calibre guns, combat aircraft and aerial weapons, which could harm the civilians. There's no ceasefire. The government will continue rescue missions as some innocents are still being held hostage. Naval forces are looking after the sea side and the sea guard is under the Navy. It is difficult to identify LTTE cadres for when civilians cross over to the government areas, LTTE rebels could be among them. In a guerilla warfare like this, when they give up arms, they become civilians, but we know and can identify the hardcore LTTE terrorists. We are trying to rehabilitate them and anyone willing to help is welcome, but help can be done only in collaboration with the Sri Lankan government because no one is left in LTTE-controlled areas," said Sri Lanka's Defence Spokesperson Lakshman Hullugalle.

Earlier reports said that the army had launched its final assault at 03:45 hrs Sri Lanka time on Monday morning after the government had turned down a unilateral ceasefire offer from the LTTE.

Senior officers believe Prabhakaran's health may rule out escape by semi-submersible craft. However, Prabhakaran's son, Charles Anthony, has reportedly escaped. Meanwhile, 23 LTTE cadres have surrendered to the army.

The United Nations has called the situation in Sri Lanka the "toughest humanitarian crisis in the world". The UN statement reads: "There is a growing concern for over at least 50,000 civilians trapped in the no fire zone. Some fear they are being held at gunpoint by the LTTE with many young boys being forcibly taken away to fight."

The issue of high civilian casualties is of utmost concern, but the Sri Lankan government has been claiming most of those who have been killed are terrorists and not civilians.

Union Home Minister P Chidambram claimed that the cessation of hostilities in Sri Lanka was a result of the Central government' concreted effort.

"It's a result of the Indian Government's concreted effort that a ceasefire has been called in the country. The Sri Lankan government has said that it will stop using heavy combat weapons and have decided to end combat operations. India welcomes the end of hostilities, we are relieved. We have been working with the lankan government for the last couple of weeks to end the hostility. India exerted enormous pressure on Sri Lanka to end hostilities and we are happy the country did just that," he stated.

He also pointed out that there was pressure from the international community, too, on the Sri Lankan government to end the war.

"The US, United Nations and the United Kingdom played a big part and we should be grateful to them for helping broker peace," said.

"Our immediate concern is the humanitarian crisis in the country and we will provide aid," Chidambaram further added.

Meanwhile, BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu blamed the Indian government for failing to play its part in the Sri Lankan crisis saying, "The government was sleeping and the people were weeping. Now they have called for a ceasefire. If the fire is over, what is there to cease? Our sympathy is with Tamils but not with LTTE or its chief."

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