Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa said today that his country had defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels on the battlefield and emerged victorious from its quarter-century civil war. "My government, with the total commitment of our armed forces, has in an unprecedented humanitarian operation finally defeated the LTTE militarily," he said, referring to the rebels by their formal name, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
"I will be going back to a country that has been totally freed from the barbaric acts of the LTTE," he said in a speech. The military reported that fighting continued to rage in the war zone along the northeast coast. Today, troops seized control of the island's entire coastline for the first time in decades, sealing the Tamil Tigers in a tiny pocket of territory and cutting off the possibility of a sea escape by the rebels' top leaders. More than 23,000 civilians have fled since Thursday.