COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – The Sri Lankan government is offering would-be rebel homicide bombers nearly $100,000 and a new life abroad to surrender themselves to authorities, the government said Monday.
The offers has been made in red and yellow posters pasted on walls around Colombo, the scene of several recent suicide bombings blamed on the Tamil Tiger rebels.
"Sri Lanka needs your life, your youth. Why are you throwing this away for (Tamil Tiger leader Velupillai) Prabhakaran," read the posters, which have been pasted across ethnic Tamil neighborhoods across the capital. The posters show a photograph of the severed head of a bomber.
"We believe that even the suiciders are being misled. They deserve to live, not to kill themselves," defense spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have been responsible for more than 240 suicide attacks in their quarter-century fight for an independent state for minority Tamils. The United States, India and the European Union have branded the group a terror organization.
The poster campaign came after a wave of bombings early this year against civilian targets in Colombo and other towns far removed from the front lines of the civil war.
The military said the bombings were a sign the rebels were growing desperate in the face of the military offensive against their de facto state in the north.
Since it began two weeks ago, the poster campaign has been cloaked in confusion. Officials initially denied the government was responsible and the military even announced it was launching an investigation into the source of the unsigned posters.
On Monday, they revealed they had been behind the posters all along.
The posters say the government can help send the recalcitrant bomber along with the bomber's family abroad if necessary. The $93,000 in reward money could also be paid in U.S. dollars, it said.
Rambukwella said that in addition to the cash, would-be bombers who surrendered would be pardoned, rehabilitated and possibly given employment.
He did not explain where the cash-strapped government was getting the money from or how it would decide who was eligible.
No one has called the hot line listed on the posters yet, he said.
Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan did not return a call from The Associated Press seeking comment.
More than 70,000 people have been killed in the violence since the war started in 1983.