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Dec 14, 2009 at 08:07am IST

'Lanka army shot surrendering LTTE leaders'

Colombo: Sri Lankan forces killed three surrendering Tamil rebel leaders on the orders of the country’s Defence Secretary and the President’s brother, alleges former army chief Gen. Sarath Fonseka, who is contesting presidential election’s next year.

Fonseka, in an interview to the weekly The Sunday, said three leaders of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had accepted an offer to surrender during the last days of the war in May 2009 but were then killed.

Fonseka said the communication between the LTTE leaders, Norwegian negotiators, Basil Rajapaksa, brother and senior adviser to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, was never conveyed to him though he was supervising the final stages of the war.

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"Later, I learnt that Basil had conveyed this information to Defence Secretary Gothabaya Rajapaksa, who in turn spoke with Brigadier Shavendra Silva, Commander of the Army's 58th Division, giving orders not to accommodate any LTTE leaders attempting surrender and that 'they must all be killed'," he said.

Fonseka’s allegations drew sharp reaction from the government, which accused him of "great betrayal". Disaster Management and Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe told reporters Fonseka must explain his allegations, as they were tantamount to speaking against the army.

Samarasinghe, who along with two other ministers attended the media briefing, said Fonseka's allegations contradict his own statement on July 10 when he said he had been restrained from taking action against the LTTE.

Fonseka, who resigned last month after accusing the government of sidelining him, said Basil Rajapaksa and Gothabaya Rajapaksa used foreign intermediaries to convey a message to LTTE leaders who wished to surrender to walk out carrying a piece of white cloth.

"It was their idea," he said, claiming sometime between midnight on May 17 and the early hours of the next morning the three LTTE leaders and their families were shot dead.

The government claims army troops found Balasingham Nadesan, political head of LTTE, Seevaratnam Pulidevan, head of LTTE’s “peace secretariat”, and senior LTTE commander Ramesh dead during mop-up operations on the morning of May 18.

The Sri Lankan government refused to answer whether it planned to sue Fonseka. "We cannot answer that question. We will have to study the legal aspects and consult the legal books," said Mass Media and Information Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa.

Basil Rajapaksa rejected the allegations and said the Norwegians had never contacted him for the surrender of LTTE leaders. "The Norwegians never got in touch with me over this particular incident. I have been in touch with the Norwegians over various issues pertaining to the conflict but never once on this particular issue," he said.

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