JAFFNA, SRI LANKA -- Tamil guerrillas formally handed over their arms yesterday in a ceremony that could mark the end of a four-year-old war for independence.
Their leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, boycotted the ceremony, but government radio said he had announced the disbanding of his Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the dominant guerrilla force.
Sri Lanka's defense secretary general, Sepala Attygalle, touched a pistol placed on a table by the guerrillas to signify the start of the surrender in Tamil-dominated Jaffna peninsula. "The act of surrender will end the bloodshed . . . and Sri Lankans will live in peace and harmony in their native land," Attygalle said.
Indian infantry with armored carriers guarded the Palaly military airfield where Dilip Yogi, a member of the Tigers political affairs committee, symbolically handed over his 9-mm pistol. He was whisked away by Indian troops and did not speak to reporters.
Attygalle, calling it a "historic day for the future of Sri Lanka," gave the guerrillas a document from President Junius R. Jayewardene granting them general amnesty. The guerrillas did not speak.
The accord, signed last week by Jayewardene and Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, had been forced on the Tigers by India, Prabhakaran said on Tuesday.
If it lasts, the surrender will mark the end of a war between minority Tamils and Sinhalese that has cost 6,000 lives and battered the economy of this Indian Ocean island.