Nov 2, 2007
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (CNN) -- A key political leader of the Sri Lankan rebel group, the Tamil Tigers, was killed Friday along with five other rebel officers during an air strike in the country's embattled north, the guerrillas said in a statement on a Tamil-affiliated Web site.
S. P. Thamilselvam was killed by the Sri Lankan air force during an "aerial bombardment" Friday at 6:00 a.m. local time in Kilinochchi -- a rebel held part in the country's north.
According to CNN contributor, journalist Iqbal Athas, Thamilselvam acted as the group's "peace negotiator" during talks with the Sri Lankan government.
"The Sri Lanka (http://topics.edition.cnn.com/topics/sri_lanka) Air Force attack has targeted the residence of the members of the Political Division," the rebel statement said, also naming the five others killed as Lt. Col. Anpumani, Maj. Mikuthan, Capt. Neathaji, Lt. Aadchiveal and Lt. Vaakaikkumaran.
The Associated Press reported comments on the attack by Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. "This is a message that we know their leaders' location," he said. "This confirms that our information is very accurate."
The strike came nearly two weeks after rebels launched a pre-dawn land and air attack on a Sri Lankan air force base that killed 10 Sri Lankan forces and wiped out military hardware worth millions of dollars, according to military sources.
There was no immediate response from the military about Friday's attack that killed Thamilselvam.
The Tamil Tigers (http://topics.edition.cnn.com/topics/liberation_tigers_of_tamil_eelam), formally called the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, have been fighting since 1983 for a separate homeland for the Tamil minority in the north and east, citing decades of discrimination by the majority Sinhalese. About 65,000 people died before the 2002 cease-fire.
The U.S. State Department designated the Tamil Tigers a foreign terrorist organization in 1997