17 Tigers killed as troops move closer to no fire zone: Sri Lanka

April 19th, 2009 - 2:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, April 19 (IANS) At least 17 Tamil Tigers were killed and 22 wounded in fierce clashes when troops advanced towards the last stronghold of the rebels as part of their “hostage rescue mission”, the defence ministry said Sunday.
It said that the troops “after a daylong march” along the A-35 Paranthan-Mullaitivu highway “readjusted their forward boundary that extend across A-35 to the northern bank of the Nanthikadal lagoon”.

“The manoeuvre is aimed at opening up a main road access to the no fire zone (NFZ), where nearly 70,000 civilians have been held hostage by LTTE terrorists,” the ministry report said, adding that the intercepted LTTE radio transmissions have revealed that 17 LTTE cadres were killed and 22 suffered injuries in the day’s fighting.

According to the report, the government-declared no-fire-zone “is a 12 km long narrow stretch of land on the northeastern coastline of the island containing about 17 sq km”.

“However, the area (no-fire-zone) has now become the main headquarters of the terrorists, where all their main guns have been positioned and their leaders cowering among civilians,” it said.

The international community, including the UN, the US, Britain, France and India, has mounted pressure on Sri Lanka demanding a longer pause in the fighting in the northeastern Mullaitivu district to ensure the safe exit of thousands of civilians.

They have also urged the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to free the civilians without holding them as hostages.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa Saturday urged the international community to exert pressure on the LTTE to free civilians, instead of asking him to stop the military operation.

“The LTTE has been holding thousands of civilians hostage in the Wanni. I ask the international community to put pressure on LTTE to give these people freedom for just one hour, then they all will come over (to) the government-held areas.

“Instead of asking me to stop the ongoing humanitarian operation, the international organisation should exert pressure on LTTE (to free civilians),” he said.

The military sources Sunday said that nearly 3,000 civilians entered the government-held areas Saturday.

They said these civilians started arriving in large groups since Saturday afternoon “using the safe routes opened for them by troops”, defying the orders of the rebels.

The LTTE, which has been banned by several countries including India and US, has been fighting to carve out a separate state in the island’s northeast over the past quarter century.

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