Over 81,000 civilians flee Sri Lanka war-zone (Lead)

April 22nd, 2009 - 3:48 pm ICT by IANS  

By P. Karunakharan
Colombo, April 22 (IANS) Over 81,000 civilians have fled Sri Lanka’s war-zone since Monday with the advancing troops cornering the Tamil Tigers into a 14 square kilometre coastal land strip in north-eastern Mullaitivu district, authorities said here Wednesday.

The authorities said that 81,423 people have fled the LTTE-held areas and entered into the government-controlled areas since Monday, taking the total number of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) since the beginning of this year beyond 150,000.

Defence spokesman and Minister of Foreign Employment, Keheliya Rambukwella, said that the troops have further advanced into the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) held areas and captured fresh territories amid fierce gun-battles.

“The LTTE has only an eight kilometre strip or about 12 to 14 square kilometres of land area left under their control… The government strongly believes that (the LTTE chief) Vellupillai Prabhakaran is still inside the no fire zone,” Rambukwella told reporters here Wednesday.

“The LTTE has lost all its military capabilities. They are fighting a losing battle. That is why they are using outside forces (protests in western capitals) to put pressure on us,” he said.

The military said that the troops have advanced beyond the Puthumathalan junction in the no-fire-zone and extended their defence line to the eastern edge of the beach “virtually breaking the no-fire-zone into two major portions by Tuesday evening”.

“The troops have thus marked the complete capture of a box-type strip in the Puthumathalan area, including a hospital in the no-fire-zone,” the military said.

As the exodus of civilians from the no-fire-zone continues to rise, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has instructed the Commissioner General of Essential Services to ensure that food, medicines and other essentials are provided to the people.

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