Colombo: The Sri Lankan army has said it will wipe out the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and its leader Velupillai Prabhakaran within six months.
Sri Lankan army chief Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka said security forces have occupied the LTTE's forward defence lines and surrounded their stronghold in Wanni from all sides.
He said the Air Force would attack all the LTTE bases and eliminate the rebels, who now number 3,000. The army had earlier claimed that Prabhakaran had been injured in an air attack last month, but the LTTE denied the claim.
More than 5,000 people have been killed in fighting between the military and the LTTE since early 2006.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka's Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse said that the military's strategy is bearing fruits and the LTTE would be defeated soon.
"For the last few months it has become very clear that we have a strategy and it is working. The main thing is that we are doing this for the Tamil people. We are trying to eradicate terrorism so that we can end this conflict, which is very unfortunate. It is giving a lot of trouble to the people here and this terrorist oragnisation (LTTE) is destroying the Tamil community, destroying Tamil culture. So we have to fight against that so that we can liberate these people," Gotabhaya Rajapakse said.
"We have done that in the eastern province and now we are engaged in development of that area and also we are planning to have elections there so that we can bring in people's representation so that they can handle the administration. We are very confident that our plan is working. Here we have to understand that we are not against a community. We are fighting a terrorist. That is why we always want the community to help us," the Defence Secretary said.
Rajapakse clarified that his government was not only looking for a military victory but also looking for a political solution to the grievances of the Tamil community.
"Of course it is terrorist group which has been there for the last 25-30 years. But we have to end this conflict and there will be a political solution after the military victories. The military victories will lead to political solutions and everlasting peace," he said.
But he also cautioned that there was "no 100 per cent confirmation" about Prabhakaran being injured.
"We took the target according to the intelligence that we got. Our pilots were confident that we got the target but it is very difficult to get confirmation whether he is injured or has been killed or has escaped. But we hit the target," he added.