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May 05, 2009 at 09:04pm IST

Sri Lanka claims to have cornered LTTE chief

New Delhi: Sri Lankan government on Tuesday claimed that its army has cornered Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) chief Velupillai Prabhakaran within a 4.5 square kilometre area along a narrow coastal strip.

Apart from Prabhakaran, the government claimed that two other important LTTE leaders, Nadesan and Pottuamman, too are trapped in the area south of Rektavaikkal.

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However, the government also admitted that thousands of civilians have been caught in the crossfire between the government forces and the LTTE.

THE GREAT ESCAPE: Injured Sri Lankan ethnic Tamil civilians seen on a truck near a hospital in Mullivaikal.

"Today we had emergency debate in Parliament. Intelligence reports suggest Prabhakaran is in a 4.5 km radius. He is with 15,000 civilians. We want to rescue all civilians," said Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary Palitha TB Kohana.

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When asked to specify the time-frame for the battle to get over, Kohana replied, "Let us not go into day’s debate. We have to look after civilians. No one can provide deadline for war."

Earlier, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa said that armed forces have "almost wiped out" the 30-year-old "LTTE menace" adding that the war is in the final stages.

"Heroic soldiers have almost wiped out 30-year-old terrorist menace, and we are in the final phase of putting the final touches to the brutal war," the President was quoted as saying by the PTI at a ceremony to welcome newly sworn-in Western Provincial Council (WPC) Chief Minister and his Cabinet in Colombo on Monday.

According to the military, the troops are advancing into the remaining parts of the no-fire zone while launching a multi-directional strategy to rescue the civilians, who, they say, are being held hostage by the rebels.

Sri Lankan Parliament has also approved the extension of the Emergency with 88 voting in favour of the extension while 14 voted against.