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Other News: Wall Street Rebounds; Sri Lanka Declares Victory Over Tamil Tigers

May 18, 2009 at 6:20 PM EDT
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In other news, Wall Street rebounded after a losing streak last week and the Sri Lankan government announced that it had defeated the rebel Tamil Tigers group after decades of conflict.

JIM LEHRER: In other news today, Wall Street rebounded after losing ground last week. Positive news from the housing and banking sectors helped. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 235 points, nearly 3 percent, to close at 8,504. The Nasdaq rose 52 points to close at 1,732, a gain of more than 3 percent.

And the price of oil rose sharply to close above $59 a barrel; that’s the highest since last November. Gasoline prices have also been moving higher. On average, they’re up 25 cents in the last three weeks.

The government of Sri Lanka declared today the final act of a long and bloody rebellion. State television on the island nation off India announced the rebels were crushed and their leader was killed.

We have a report narrated by James Mates of Independent Television News.

JAMES MATES: The final conflagration in a quarter-century of civil war. The Tamil Tigers, who had fought so long and often so brutally for their own independent state on the island of Sri Lanka, are utterly defeated.

Government forces laid out dead bodies and captured weaponry to prove their victory, but for weeks everyone had known this day was coming. The remaining few thousand Tamil fighters have been trapped on a small strip of land by the sea and were being shelled into oblivion.

Among today’s dead, the Tiger’s leader, Vellupillai Prabhakaran, Sri Lanka’s most wanted for more than two decades, and alongside him, his son.

Prabhakaran was the man who founded the Tamil Tigers back in 1973. It was he who began the use of terrorist suicide bombings and himself was said to carry a cyanide capsule around his neck.

In 1991, it was one of his suicide bombers that killed India’s prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, for which the Indians sentenced him to death.

But the Tiger’s most lethal suicide attack was 7 years ago, when 90 died in Colombo’s central bank.

Despite their side’s victory today, protesters from Sri Lanka’s majority Sinhalese community marched angrily on the British embassy, burning Foreign Secretary David Miliband in effigy, for having dared ask for a cease-fire. This may not all go well for postwar reconciliation.

Tonight, one community has surrendered, many of its people destitute and in refugee camps, while the other celebrates with firecrackers. A long civil war is over, but this remains a deeply divided island.

JIM LEHRER: More than 70,000 people died during the years of conflict on Sri Lanka, including 7,000 just since January. Thousands more are now refugees waiting in camps for much-needed aid.

The ruling party in India won big in weekend elections. The Congress Party took 261 seats out of 543 in parliament. Prime Minister Singh will now get a second term to pursue reforms in insurance, pension funds, banking, and retail.

In Pakistan, the U.N. estimated nearly 1.5 million people have been uprooted by fighting in the northwest. The exodus is from the Swat Valley, where the military has been fighting the Taliban since early May.

A U.N. representative said the new refugee number is in addition to 500,000 people who fled an earlier military offensive in the region. The Taliban vowed today to fight against Pakistani military advances until their last breath.

It could take up to two years to turn the tide in Afghanistan; that was the estimate today from Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs. He said additional forces and new tactics can turn things around, but he also warned that causing more civilian casualties could cripple U.S. strategy.

Just yesterday, Ahmad Wali Karzai, brother of Afghanistan’s president, escaped an attempt on his life. A bodyguard was killed.