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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 July 2007, 08:40 GMT 09:40 UK
Sri Lankan troops mark victories
By Roland Buerk
BBC News, Colombo

President Rajapaksa at Thursday's victory celebration
The president says the next priority is to develop the east's economy
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has attended a military parade in the capital to celebrate the capture of the east of the country.

He said he would not be deterred by threats from Tamil Tiger rebels.

The Tigers have vowed to hit back through guerrilla warfare and by striking economic and military targets.

There was heavy security in the capital for the parade, a reminder that Sri Lanka's war is far from over. Police and soldiers lined the streets.

Year of fighting

In Colombo's Independence Square, bands played and troops marched, helicopters clattered overhead and a fighter jet roared through the sky.

Mahinda Rajapaksa
However dreadful, I will not be subdued or frightened by the violent growls of the Tamil Tigers
President Mahinda Rajapaksa

The celebrations came after the military announced that, for the first time since the mid-1990s, it was in control of the entire east of the country.

The Tamil Tigers were driven from the area in a year of fighting.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa said the rebels should accept that they could not bring freedom to the island's Tamil minority through guns, bombs and cyanide capsules.

Tiger fighters wear the poison around their necks to commit suicide if threatened with capture.

Sri Lanka's government says it now intends to develop the economy of the east and to hold local and provincial elections there by the end of the year.

The rebels say they still have forces in the region who have now gone into what they describe as guerrilla mode.

They vowed to strike back by attacking military and economic targets across the country and to defend a large swathe of territory they still control in the north.




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