Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sri Lanka: Government claims 81,000 civilians have escaped the fighting between government troops and LTTE

Voice of America reports the Sri Lankan military says more than 81,000 civilians have escaped the fighting between government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels in the last few days.

The defense ministry said Wednesday the civilians have registered with the government since fleeing the conflict.

U.S. officials and international groups have voiced serious concern about the safety of civilians who have been trapped in a war zone that is no larger than 20-square kilometers. That is where the government is making an aggressive push to eliminate the Tamil Tiger rebels, and to bring an end to a 26-year civil war.

On Tuesday, the United States issued a statement urging the rebels and the government to refrain from fighting in a dedicated "no-fire zone." U.S. officials pointed to reports of increased casualties as a result of the military action, and from rebels firing on civilians trying to leave the area.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has called the situation "catastrophic." U.S.-based rights group, Human Rights Watch warned that many more civilians will die unless both the rebels and the government show greater concern for their safety.

The Tamil Tigers have been fighting to create an independent homeland for Sri Lanka's Tamil minority in the north and east of the country. More than 70,000 people have been killed in their violent campaign.

The United States, the European Union and other nations consider the Tamil Tigers a terrorist group.
Published by Mike Hitchen, Mike Hitchen Consulting
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