The breakaway faction of V Muralitharan, better known as Karuna, gave up offering resistance to the advancing columns of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and asked its fighters to go home, military and rebel sources said on Monday.

  

"Over 400 to 500 ... were asked to go home," said 16-year-old Tiger fighter identified as Arulmoli in Valaichchenai after joining her parents. "We were the only ones left after the others fled."

 

She said the entire rebel base near this eastern coastal town was disbanded, but was not aware of the whereabouts of her former leader, Karuna, who was being pursued by the main rebel leadership.

 

No support

  

A top military source said Karuna's faction indicated to government forces that they were disbanding and no longer engaging the northern leadership of the LTTE.

  

"They did not get the expected support from the security forces and that is why Karuna could not hold on," the source said on the basis of anonymity.

  

"Karuna loyalists have begun selling off things like motorcycles they could get hold of from the abandoned bases."

  

"Karuna loyalists have begun selling off things like motorcycles they could get hold of from the abandoned bases"

Unnamed source,
Sri Lankan military

Karuna's faction was not immediately available for comment.

 

Earlier,  Sri Lankan military authorities turned down requests by the main Tamil Tiger group to move 150 fighters from the island's north to this eastern coastal district by boats, but clandestine sea transport continued, officials said.

  

Permission

 

Under the February 2002 truce arranged by peace broker Norway, Tigers are not allowed to use sea or land transport to cross front lines while carrying arms. Prior permission is needed to cross army lines.

 

The main Tamil Tiger force had mounted the initial onslaught from the north-eastern port district of Trincomalee, and another drive from the opposite direction in Ampara.

  

Meanwhile, Batticaloa town remained calm on Monday, a public holiday before the traditional Sinhala and Tamil New Year which dawns on Tuesday.