Sri Lanka launches ‘world’s largest mission’ to rescue civilians

April 10th, 2009 - 4:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, April 10 (IANS) Sri Lankan troops have launched “the world’s largest humanitarian operation” to rescue thousands of civilians trapped in the government-declared no-fire-zone after seizing control of the last rebel bastion in the north, the defence ministry said Friday.
It said the troops have “almost swept away terrorist strongholds in the northern anterior of the 12-km-long no-fire-zone demarcated for the civilians” and were conducting mop-up operations in the southern anterior of the no-fire-zone (NFZ).

“Troops have identified the best accessible routes for the civilians to come out of the NFZ and established rescue points there. Some of these rescue points are located just 150 metres short of the LTTE built earth bund on the NFZ border,” the ministry said.

“Troops continuously keep the civilians informed about the safe routes to the cleared areas as they open up more escape routes to the civilians by removing terrorist blockades,” it said, adding that public address systems have been positioned at several locations to inform the people of these routes.

The rescue operation has been launched at a time when the island’s donor chairs expressed their “urgent concern for safety of over 100,000 people” trapped in the fierce fighting between the troops and the Tamil Tiger rebels.

Discussing the situation in the northern war-zone, the members of Sri Lanka’s donor co-chairs, the US, Norway, Japan and the EU, have stressed “the importance of a humanitarian pause” to ensure that adequate supplies of food, water and medicine reach the civilians in the zone.

Dealing a major blow to of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) Sunday, the troops captured Puthukkudiyiruppu, the last bastion, where the rebels maintained several military and naval bases and armoury over the past three decades.

Killing over 500 LTTE in 72 hours in the fight for Puthukkudiyiruppu, the military said Thursday that the troops were “so close to last leg of the war” against the rebels who has been fighting for a separate state over the past quarter century.

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