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Tamil Tigers surrender -

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KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: First, what appears to be the final chapter in one of the world's longest
and most bitter civil wars.

Late today Sri Lankan Special Forces reportedly ambushed and killed the leader of the Tamil Tigers,
Velupillai Prabhakaran.

If true, his death adds emphasis to the end of the Tamils' 26-year bid to create an independent
ethnic homeland in the north of the island nation, a bid that cost an estimated 80,000 lives from a
population the size of Australia's.

At their peak the Tamil Tigers were one of the world's most feared terrorist groups after
pioneering suicide bombers and assassinating Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

The Sri Lankan Government is celebrating victory but others are less sure that the bloodshed is
over.

Meanwhile the International Red Cross has described the situation as "an unimaginable humanitarian
catastrophe."

Matt Peacock reports.

MATT PEACOCK, REPORTER: After a quarter of a century of bloody warfare, the Tamil Tigers have
finally begun to lay down their arms. But does the Sri Lankan army's victory really mean an end to
the region's longest running modern war?

VICTOR RAJAKULENDRAM, AUSTRALASIAN FEDERATION OF TAMIL ASSOCIATIONS: The war is not over. The war
will continue because it is a struggle. So the battle is lost but the war will continue.

SERGEI DESILVA-RANASINGHE, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY, EDITH COWAN UNIVERSITY: It's the end of the
civil war and it's a dawn of a new era.

MATT PEACOCK: During the past three months the Sri Lankan army has tightened its grip on the
remaining Tamil forces while international aid agencies have warned that tens of thousands of
civilians have been trapped in the war zone with little food, water, shelter or medicine, fleeing
the constant bombardment from government troops in whatever way they could.

It's a humanitarian disaster that US President Barack Obama last week condemned.

BARACK OBAMA, US PRESIDENT: Without urgent action this humanitarian crisis could turn into a
catastrophe.

MATT PEACOCK: Already there's celebrations on the streets of Columba over the possible end of a
quarter of century of conflict and amid a continuing media blackout, the Sri Lankan Government has
claimed that trapped civilians have now been evacuated to safety.

SPOKESMAN, SRI LANKAN GOVERNMENT: We are pleased to tell you today that all of the civilians who
are inside the no-fire zone have now been rescued by government forces.

MATT PEACOCK: The LTT or Tamil Tigers are they're known took up their armed struggle in the 1970s
as a reaction to the increasing discrimination against the Tamil minority, many descendents of
labour imported by the British two centuries ago by the Sinhalese majority.

The Tigers resorted to guerrilla warfare and soon became notorious for suicide bombings, extending
their war even to the sea, sinking Sri Lankan ships.

But the more recent breakdown of a 2002 ceasefire saw a sustained government military campaign
against the Tigers. They once laid claim to nearly a quarter of the country. This year their
territory shrank to this, the so-called No Fire Zone.

Now, despite government reassurances, concern from aid agencies like the International Red Cross
over the plight of the civilian population is high.

FLORIAN WESTPHAL, SPOKESMAN, INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS: These are people who've been repeatedly
displaced from their homes over the past few months. These are people who fled in front of the
conflict until they got stuck in this area where they were trapped since February, no adequate
medical care, not enough food, not enough sanitation. So the first thing is to help them in the
short term. The second thing, though, is to clearly make it possible for them to return home as
soon as possible.

VICTOR RAJAKULENDRAM: So a lot of international observers have stated that it was a bloodbath. A
lot of people have died, more than 3,000 people have died within the last 48 hours, or 72 hours,
and the bodies are lying all over.

MATT PEACOCK: Victor Rajakulendram of the Australasian Tamil federation believes that peace after
such violence will be hard to find.

VICTOR RAJAKULENDRAM: One side is celebrating the defeat of the other side, so the mentalities of
these two communities are going to harden.

SERGEI DESILVA-RANASINGHE: As a result of the LTT's marginalisation from power in Sri Lanka, that
the moderate voices of Tamil can come out and now negotiate a settlement to the actual conflict.

MATT PEACOCK: Edith Cowan University's Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe is optimistic, though, that a
lasting peace might be brokered.

SERGEI DESILVA-RANASINGHE: Many among the Sinhalese have gone through a long, protracted civil war
and they're not looking forward to a recommencement of hostilities in the long term. I would also
say the other thing is India as well, now that Congress has come out on top, it's more looking like
India will pressure Sri Lanka to come to some sort of political settlement.

MATT PEACOCK: It's to the international community, and especially US President Barack Obama, that
the Tamil community has now turned for a political solution. Without international pressure,
despite the reported death of the Tamil Tigers' leader, their calls for greater autonomy are
unlikely to go away.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Matt Peacock with that report.