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March 31, 2007

Tamil Tigers warn of bloodbath

Filed under: global islands,india,sri lanka — admin @ 5:52 am

Colombo – Thousands of civilians are fleeing Tamil Tiger-held territory in east Sri Lanka as troops and rebels battle with artillery and mortar bombs, the two sides said on Thursday, amid a rebel warning of a bloodbath.

Nearly 13 700 civilians have fled rebel areas in the eastern district of Batticaloa in the past fortnight, 3 800 of those alone on Wednesday. The Tigers and the military both said thousands more were fleeing on Thursday.

“Civilians are worried they will be held as human shields as happened earlier and are fleeing the area,” said military spokesperson Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe.

“The security forces’ plan is to liberate civilians from the Tigers and neutralise rebel gun positions that pose a direct threat to troops in Batticaloa,” he added.

The military already have captured a large coastal swathe of territory in recent months that the Tigers held under the terms of a now-tattered 2002 ceasefire pact, forcing the rebels to flee to jungles further inland or to their northern base by sea.

However, troops had not yet begun a push to clear the Tigers from a jungle area called Thoppigala about 40km west of Batticaloa, where rebel fighters have regrouped and which analysts say will be the next target of a military offensive.

A bloodbath

The Tigers warned on Monday of a bloodbath if the international community was unable to convince the military to halt a declared plan to wipe them out militarily.

Analysts fear a new episode in a two-decade civil war that has killed about 68 000 people since 1983 will deepen.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who say they are fighting for an independent state for minority Tamils in north and east Sri Lanka, said the military had mounted attacks on most of the areas it still controls in Batticaloa.

The Tigers said they had recovered the body of one soldier, but there were no immediate details of any wider casualties.

Resettling refugees

Thursday’s fighting comes after land and sea battles, ambushes and suicide attacks that have killed about 4 000 people in the past 15 months alone.

It also comes a day after authorities started to resettle the first of more than 15 000 refugees displaced by months of fighting in newly captured territory further north in Batticaloa.

President Mahinda Rajapakse’s government has vowed to unveil a power-sharing proposal within weeks, but has rejected the Tigers’ demands for a separate homeland.

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