More than 2,100 Tamil civilians flee rebel territory in northern Sri Lanka
www.chinaview.cn 2009-04-06 17:55:24   Print

    COLOMBO, April 6 (Xinhua) -- The military in Sri Lanka said on Monday that 2,127 Tamil civilians fled Tamil Tiger rebels' territory to the government troops controlled area in the north on Sunday.

    Officials from the Defense of Ministry said the 2,127 civilians including 919 children have fled from LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eealm) hostage and sought protection with the troops at Ampalavanpokkanai in the Mullaittivu district.

    The civilian exodus triggered on Sunday hours after the troops crushed the last LTTE resistance at Puthukkudiyiruppu, the military said.

    The military said the LTTE have been driven out of their last 1-sq-km stronghold in Puthukkudiyiruppu east and blamed them of mixing up with civilians in the 20-sq-km no fire zone at Puttumatalan area.

    Meanwhile, a pro-rebel website said 63 civilians including scores of children were killed and 143 more were injured by shells in the new safe zones declared by the government in Puthumathalan, Mulivaaikal, Irraddaivaikal and Valaingaramadam in Mullaittivu on Saturday.

    The verification of claims by both sides is impossible as no independent journalist or organization is allowed to enter the conflict zone for safety reason.

    Actual number of civilians trapped in the area is being debated. The government argued that only 120,000 people lived there. But international agencies said some 230,000 people had been originally trapped.

    A concerned international community has pleaded with both the government and the rebels to care for the safety of civilians amid allegations that a large number of them are receiving injuries or getting killed in the crossfire.

    The government troops have surrounded the "safe zone" in the northeastern coast with five divisions deployed to free the civilians, military sources said.

    UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday urged the LTTE leadership to allow civilians to leave the conflict area of their own free will. He also reminded the Sri Lankan government of its responsibility to protect civilians, and to avoid the use of heavy weapons in areas where there are civilians.

    More than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict since the mid-1980s in one of the world's longest civil wars.    

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