Sri Lanka announces safe zone for Tamil civilians

January 21st, 2009 - 10:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Jan 21 (Xinhua) Tamil civilians who are currently trapped in the conflict zone in northern Sri Lanka are free to leave the area to safety, the military said Wednesday. Military spokesman Udaya Nanayakkara said an area near the A-35 highway had been declared a safe zone. “We want the civilians, now held by the LTTE, to come to the safe zone,” he said.

He added that leaflets have been air-dropped to advise civilians in the rebel-held areas to move to the safety zone.

According to aid agencies, some 200,000 to 230,000 civilians are trapped in the last stronghold of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Mullaithivu district.

The government said the figure would be much smaller. Nanayakkara said the civilians have begun to leave the rebel-held region, with nearly 3,000 arriving in government-controlled areas last week.

Local and international rights groups have condemned the LTTE for using civilians as human shield in the conflict with security forces.

The LTTE faces eviction from their last hold of Mullaithivu as the military is continuing its forward march.

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