Tamil Rebel Blamed in Gandhi Assassination Killed
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ A Tamil woman accused of planning the slaying of India’s Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi has been killed by Sri Lankan forces, the Tamil rebels said Monday.
They said Akila, who led the women’s wing of the Tamil guerrilla movement and used only one name, died during the offensive the military launched last month on the Jaffna peninsula, a rebel stronghold in northern Sri Lanka.
India requested her extradition in July to stand trial for Gandhi’s death four years ago.
At least 1,600 people have been killed and 6,000 soldiers and rebels wounded in the offensive, the largest of the 12-year civil war in Sri Lanka.
The Tamil rebels, who accuse Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese majority of widespread discrimination, went to war in 1983. Some 38,000 people have died since then.
Thousands of soldiers renewed their advance Monday, heading south in an attempt to encircle the city and move in when the monsoon rains end in early January, military officials said on condition of anonymity.
In Colombo, Justice Minister Lakshman Peiris predicted a military victory soon.
``There has been a significant change in the strategy with the military striking at the source of the problem in the north,″ he said.
The minister told a group of more than 100 foreign investors at a seminar promoting investment in Sri Lanka that ``there is a mood of desperation″ on the part of the rebels.
The rebels reported Akila’s death in a statement from their London office.
``Lt. Col. Akila attained martyrdom on Oct. 30 during the defense of Jaffna,″ it said. It did not explain the delay in announcing her death.
In addition to Akila, India has requested the extradition of Tamil rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran and intelligence chief Pottu Amman to stand trial for Gandhi’s murder. He was killed by a suicide bomber at an election rally in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu on May 21, 1991.
Gandhi ordered Indian troops into Sri Lanka in 1987 to help crush the Tamil insurgency.
Sri Lanka’s police chief, Wickremasinghe Rajaguru, has offered a $96,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Prabhakaran, who faces charges of treason and murder, the state-owned newspaper Daily News reported Monday. The offer was not connected to the Indian government’s extradition request, officials said.