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India asks Sri Lanka to extend truce, save Tamils

[AlertNet, Friday, 17 April 2009 07:18 No Comment]

India asked Sri Lanka on Friday to extend a pause in war hostilities to enable civilians trapped in the conflict to leave for secure areas, saying the fate of Tamils could not be ignored.

 

"Continuation of precipitated military action, leading to further civilian casualties at this time would be totally unacceptable," said Pranab Mukherjee, India’s foreign minister.

 

Indian politicians face pressure to protect Sri Lankan Tamils, who are closely linked to about 60 million Tamils in Tamil Nadu.

 

The issue is all the more sensitive now as India goes to the polls in a general election and the Congress party hopes to return to power riding on votes from southern Indian states.

 

Sri Lanka’s two-day humanitarian truce ended on Wednesday and the military announced it was now free to begin a final assault to end the 25-year war against the rebel Tamil Tigers.

 

The Sri Lankan military says only 1,000 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels remain, and accuse the fighters of holding around 100,000 civilians as human shields.

 

"India is deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka. The continuing conflict has taken a heavy toll on Tamil civilians," Mukherjee said in Kolkata, capital of the eastern state of West Bengal.

 

He said the two day-truce was not enough to allow Tamil civilians to get away from the conflict zones.

In less than three years, the Sri Lankan military has retaken 15,000 square km (5,790 sq mile) from the separatists and pushed them into 17 square km (6.6 sq mile) of coastal coconut groves,

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