Sri Lankan military shrinks ’safety zone’ for civilians

May 9th, 2009 - 1:01 am ICT by IANS  

Colombo, May 8 (DPA) The Sri Lankan military has shrunk a “safety zone” for civilians in the northeastern part of the island where government troops are continuing their operations to rescue thousands of civilians, the defence ministry said Friday.
The zone has now been shrunk to an area of 2.5 square kilometres in the coastal area of the Mullaitivu district, 395 km northeast of Colombo.

The area is meant for civilians to gather so that they are not caught up in the fighting between government forces and Tamil rebels in the area. However, the rebels have claimed that military attacks have taken place in the safe zone.

Originally there was a safety zone of 20 sq km in the rebel-held area, but now the total area controlled by the rebels has been reduced to six square kilometres out of which 2.5 sq km will be the new safe zone.

The government estimates that 20,000 civilians are still trapped in the area, but UN agencies say there are about 50,000 civilians there.

The military says they are in the final phase of a major military operation to crush the rebels, who have been fighting for an independent homeland for minority Tamils in the northern and eastern parts of the country for the last 25 years.

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