Sri Lanka rebels offer to lay down arms

Sri Lanka rebels offer to lay down arms, government says no

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) - The government has said no to a last-minute cease-fire call from Tamil Tiger rebels who are admitting defeat in their 25-year-old civil war in Sri Lanka. The rebels offered to lay down their guns as government forces swept across the last Tamil Tiger strongholds in the northeast.

The government says thousands of civilians trapped in the war zone have escaped to safety and there is no longer any reason to stop the battle. With a war that has killed well over 70,000 people nearing its end, Sri Lankans poured into the streets in spontaneous celebration.

The fate of the Tamil Tigers' top commanders remains unclear, including the whereabouts of the reclusive rebel leader. But a senior military official says troops found the bodies of several rebel fighters who had committed suicide today when troops surrounded them.