The Tamil Tiger rebels admitted defeat in their 25-year-old war with the Sri Lankan government on Saturday offering to lay down their guns as government forces swept across their last strongholds in the north-east.
The government rejected the last-ditch call for a ceasefire, saying the thousands of civilians trapped in the war zone all have escaped to safety and there was no longer any reason to stop the battle.
With the war nearing its end, Sri Lankans poured into the streets in spontaneous celebration. President Mahinda Rajapaksa scheduled a nationally-televised news conference for tomorrow morning at parliament where he was expected to tell the nation the war was over.
The fate of the Tamil Tigers’ top commanders remained unclear including the whereabouts of the reclusive rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.
A senior military official said troops found the bodies of several rebel fighters who had committed suicide on Saturday when troops surrounded them.
The bodies were suspected of being Prabhakaran and his deputies but the military was still trying to confirm their identities.
The rebels, who once controlled a wide swathe of the north, have been routed by government forces in recent months.
On Saturday, Tamil Tiger suicide bombers targeted troops clearing out the last pockets of rebel resistance in the war zone.
At least 70 rebels were killed trying to flee, the military said.
Hours later the rebel group offered to lay down arms, saying it was acting to protect the wounded in the war zone.