"There will be a big event in Colombo in keeping with the success of the armed forces in Thoppigala," Lucien Rajakarunanayake, presidential spokesman, said.

Celebrations are planned for July 19, he said as government forces continued to clear the landmines from the area around the base.

Tigers defiant

But Thamilselvan remained defiant in an interview he gave from Kilinochchi in the north, where the Tamil separatists still dominate. 

"We can only say that Thoppigala and the jungles the government is now gloating about as if they had captured a new country or a state ... is not going to last very long"

S.P. Thamilselvan, Tamil Tiger leader
"We can only say that Thoppigala and the jungles the government is now gloating about as if they had captured a new country or a state or something like that, is not going to last very long," he said.

Thamilselvan said that the Tigers had no faith in a cross-party bid to forge a consensus on devolution proposal for the minority Tamils, and could not talk peace with the current president.

"Peace is not possible with this president, because during this president's term we find a euphoria, celebration, jubilation over the so-called victory in the east. Under such a person peace is not always possible."

Mahinda Rajapaksa has repeatedly said he is open to talks at any time but has continued with military offensives against the separatists. The Tigers have previously said they will not talk until the campaigns are halted.

Guerrilla tactics

Rasiah Ilanthiriyan, another spokesman for the group, told reporters that Tamil Tiger forces who remained in the east were now fighting using "guerrilla" tactics.

"They are mentioning this as the end of the war in the east," Ilanthiriyan said. "But that is not the truth. We have the  experience in guerrilla tactics. In fact, we have already changed our approach to guerrilla tactics."

The Sri Lankan defence ministry said sporadic clashes had been reported in the north on Thursday and one soldier had been killed by mortar shells fired by the Tigers.

The Tamil Tigers are fighting for an independent homeland in the north and east of Sri Lanka.
 
Since 1983 the conflict between Sri Lanka's ethnic minority Tamils and the majority Sinhalese-controlled government has claimed more than 70,000 lives.