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Sri Lanka's Tamil Rebels Admit Defeat


Sri Lanka's Tamil rebels have admitted defeat after spending a quarter-century fighting for an independent homeland.

Rebel official Selvarasa Pathamanathan said in a statement Sunday the rebels have decided to "silence their guns" to remove what he said was the government's "last weak excuse" for killing Tamil people.

As word spread that the rebels had surrendered in the northeast, people celebrated in the streets of the capital, Colombo.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa returned to Sri Lanka from Jordon Sunday to cheering supporters who hailed him as a national hero.

The cost of victory has been high.

The United Nations estimates about 6,500 civilians have died in the fighting since January.

It has called for an investigation into possible war crimes committed by both the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers.

The government insists its final, bloody drive to seize control of rebel-held territory was a "hostage rescue mission" to free Tamil civilians.

Government forces said Saturday they had seized control of the entire island's coast for the first time since war broke out in 1983. On Sunday, the military said some rebels still controlled about 800 square-meters of land. It vowed to clear them from the area.

The military says it killed 70 Tamil fighters who were trying to flee the war zone in boats Sunday. And some rebels continue to fight. A Tamil suicide bomber attacked troops, but no government casualties were reported.

The rebels began their fight for a separate homeland for their ethnic Tamil minority nearly three decades ago, complaining of discrimination by the Sinhalese majority -- something successive Sri Lankan governments have long denied.

Since then, approximately 70,000 people have died in the war. And now, an estimated 250,000 to 300,000 people are displaced after fleeing the fighting.

A top aide to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Colombo Saturday to discuss the plight of the refugees.

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