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Sri Lanka army closes rebels in

[BBC, Friday, 6 February 2009 10:48 No Comment]

The Sri Lankan army is closing in on remaining Tamil Tiger positions, confining them to an area of about 200 sq km (124 sq miles), officials say.

Troops are near Puthukudiyiruppu village, which officials describe as the last major rebel position.

 

State media say 2,500 civilians managed to flee the conflict zone recently.

 

The Red Cross, which says scores of civilians have died in the fighting, reported on Friday that its Colombo offices had been stoned by protesters.

 

UN chief’s call

The BBC’s Ethirajan Anbarasan says that if the army captures Puthukudiyiruppu, the rebels will be confined only to small villages, coastal areas and jungles, where close-quarter fighting will be intense.

 

Senior Tiger leaders have not commented on the latest military claims. The UN says it now has no communication links with them.

 

However the pro-rebel TamilNet website again accused the army of shelling a hospital. It released photos of dead people at Puthukudiyiruppu hospital, which it said came under fire on Wednesday and Thursday.

 

Independent journalists are prevented by the government from travelling to war-hit areas, so there is no way of getting independent corroboration of either side’s claims.

 

Aid agencies and the UN continue to remain concerned about the plight of thousands of civilians who it is feared are trapped between the two sides.

 

The Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation said that more than 2,500 civilians have recently managed to flee the diminishing area the rebels still control and another 3,000 were "waiting to come over."

 

A government spokesman said that UN chief Ban Ki-moon has telephoned President Mahinda Rajapakse to discuss the plight of the non-combatants. It said he was given an "assurance" they would not be harassed.

 

On Friday the International Committee of the Red Cross said its main office in the capital was stoned by protesters who said it was supporting the rebels.

 

A spokesperson said: "A group of people came and shouted slogans and then started pelting stones at our office around noon.

 

"A few windows were damaged, but there were no injuries to our staff… We are really concerned about this."

 

Exhibition

On Thursday, the Sri Lankan army said that troops had captured a large quantity of automatic rifles, detonators and hand grenades from three rebel camps in the district of Mullaittivu.

 

The army says that one of the camps belonged to the "Ratha unit" which provided security to rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.

 

The military also said on Thursday that it had captured the last major rebel naval base in the north-east. It said that the deputy leader of the rebel Sea Tigers unit was among the senior commanders killed in the fighting.

 

Correspondents say that the fall of the Chalai base means that the Tigers now only have access to 20km (12 miles) of coastline in the north-east.

[Full Coverage]

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