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Terrorism & Security

Sri Lanka says cease-fire with Tamil Tigers now over

The 2002 cease-fire was ignored in recent months, but Colombo's decision formally ends the Norwegian monitoring mission and means more attacks, say experts.

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Even before the announcement of the cease-fire withdrawal, the government showed signs of wanting to launch a new offensive against the Tigers, according to an Agence France-Presse report. Over the last weekend, state-run newspapers in Sri Lanka had quoted officials promising a military victory over the rebels in 2008, the AFP said.

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"We can bring the war against the LTTE to a turning point once we are able to destroy the LTTE capabilities to operate in bunkers and forward defence lines," [Army chief Sarath] Fonseka was quoted as saying in the [state-run] Daily News.
The paper also quoted both navy chief Wasantha Karannagoda and air force commander Roshan Gunatilleke as saying they were "confident" of defeating the Tigers in the new year.

On Saturday, Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa – brother of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa - drew attention to the number of truce violations, reports Indian daily The Hindu. "The Ceasefire Agreement exists only on paper. Obviously we can see that there is no ceasefire. It has become a joke," he said.

From the beginning of the truce in 2002 until April 2007, the Tamil Tigers violated the cease-fire 3,830 times, while the government violated it 351 times, according to figures cited by The Hindu.

India may help the Sri Lankan government fight the Tigers. United Press International reports that India, citing an increased "threat perception" of the Tigers, announced plans Wednesday for joint military exercises with Sri Lankan forces in early 2008.

Sri Lanka's military believes it is gaining the upper hand in the conflict, but the withdrawal decision may also be politically motivated, reports Agence France-Presse.

Analysts said the government of President Mahinda Rajapakse, which has a slim majority in parliament, may also have pulled out of the truce to woo the hardline but influential People's Liberation Front, or the JVP. The JVP saved the government from a humiliating defeat at the December budget vote and has been demanding the abrogation of the ceasefire and an end to Norway's role on the troubled island. Press reports here speculated that the end of the truce could pave the way for the JVP to rejoin the government it left in 2005.

The government's decision to leave the treaty comes amid a new spate of violence in the capital city of Colombo, reports CNN. The government accused the Tigers of planting a bomb that hit an Army bus Wednesday, killing at least four and wounding 28 others. A day earlier, a member of a Tamil opposition party was killed by a gunman outside a Hindu temple.

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