Tamil Tigers leader missing, says Sri Lanka

Amid growing international outcry over the fate of civilians, Sri Lanka has reiterated its promise of safe passage, but has refused calls for a truce for negotiations.

Tamil Tigers leader missing, says Sri Lanka

The stream of civilians fleeing Sri Lanka's war zone picked up speed and air force jets killed 11 guerrillas in a strike that left the leader of the Tamil Tigers' naval wing missing, the military said on Saturday.

More than 50,000 soldiers are converging on a tiny wedge of jungle in the Indian Ocean island's northeast to crush the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) separatists and end one of Asia's longest-running wars.

Soldiers bombed a complex of bunkers with an apartment and communications dishes on Friday, killing at least 11 Tigers, air force spokesman Wing Commander Janaka Nanayakkara said.

The pro-rebel website www.TamilNet.com said late on Friday more than 1,000 soldiers had been killed since Feb. 1, and that Tiger commandos had seized an army weapons dump. It quoted unnamed LTTE sources. The military called the report false.

Verifying battlefield reports is next to impossible since the war zone is sealed off to independent media.

Initial reports claimed it may have been in Prabhakaran, but later was found to be an operational base for the LTTE's "Sea Tigers" naval wing and its chief, Soosai, he said.

Civilians escape

Trapped inside the 175 square km (67 sq miles) of rebel-held territory are tens of thousands of civilians, whom aid agencies, the government and rights groups say are forcibly being held there by the LTTE. The rebels deny that.

The number of people fleeing has gathered pace this week, and rose sharply on Friday.

"Yesterday, 5,000 came out," military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said.

According to a military tally, around 10,800 civilians have fled this year -- 6,600 of those on Thursday and Friday alone. Aid groups say 250,000 are in the war zone. The government says the number is about half of that.

People who escaped on Friday were brought to Kilinochchi, the town the rebels had declared as the capital of the separate state they wanted to create, Nanayakkara said. Troops seized it on Jan. 2, first in a string of major victories this year.

They were due to be brought to Vavuniya, a north-central town where the government has major military and humanitarian facilities, Nanayakkara said. A witness in Vavuniya told Reuters that roughly 3,000 people had been brought there since Friday.

Amid growing international outcry over the fate of civilians, the government has reiterated its promise of safe passage, but has refused calls for a truce for negotiations.

Protest of Tamils in Canada

Members from Mississauga's Tamil community are planning an all-day protest rally on Sunday to bring to attention what they say is an ongoing "genocide" in Sri Lanka, reported Mississauga news on their website.

Organizers of the protest say they're calling for Canada to intervene in Sri Lanka, where a civil war between Sri Lankan forces and Tamil Rebels has resulted in the death of thousands of civilians caught in the middle.

The Tamil community is also appealing to the government to ensure international aid agencies are mobilized to provide the people with emergency food and medicine.

More than 800 Tamil civilians have been killed in Sri Lanka in recent weeks, while government officials say the number is closer to 300.

Last week, Mississauga East-Cooksville MP Albina Guarnieri called upon the Canadian government to stand up for the human rights of the Tamil civilians and join international efforts to end the violence, condemning the silence against civilian killings.

Reuters
Last Mod: 07 Şubat 2009, 14:41
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