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May 01, 2009 at 08:44am IST

50,000 civilians trapped in LTTE-held area

Colombo: The ongoing war between the Sri Lankan armed forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has displaced lakhs of civilians from the war zone.

Sri Lankan army claimed that LTTE resistance would collapse within the next 48 hours. Army's 58 and 53 Divisions have linked up trapping LTTE in a six-square km area.

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The army pointed out that only five km of Mullaitivu coastline remains to be liberated from LTTE, which in a last ditch attempt also used two armour plated trucks to smash through advancing forces.

Meanwhile, the civilians have been forced to leave their homes and take shelter in relief camps as the war in northern Sri Lanka rages on. Even as camps are packed to their capacity, thousands of people are continuously seeking shelter in at various places.

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At an IDP (Internally displaced persons) camp in Vavuniya's Manik Farms in Sri Lanka the biggest concern is congestion, though the government in coordination with the United Nations and other countries is trying to provide food, shelter and medicines to all those displaced.

However, access to the camps is still a problem. Humanitarian agencies had also requested to allow freedom of movement of IDPs and vulnerable populations.

ALSO SEE LTTE still holding civilians as human shields: Lanka

Sri Lankan government has now released 111 elderly IDPs from Manik Farms and Vavuniya camps.

According to reports an estimated 50,000 civilians are still trapped in the six square km area controlled by the LTTE. The United Nations says nearly 6,500 civilians have already been killed in the recent fighting.

International mediators have appealed to the government to safeguard the estimated 50,000 civilians trapped by the fighting, but the government has ruled out a halt in the military offensive against LTTE.

UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes claimed there are 50,000 civilians still trapped in the combat zone in Sri Lanka with the LTTE refusing to let them leave.

"We believe there are some 50,000 civilians still trapped there. It may be more, it may be less; the government figures are much less but we think 50,000 is a reasonable figure for an estimate of how many are there and is certainly a significant number. And of course these people are in great danger from the continuing fighting; the numbers of civilian casualties hither too has been pretty horrific in the last three months," said Holmes

CNN-IBN Senior Editor VK Shashikumar, who has been tracking the situation in Sri Lanka, reported that Sri Lankan forces have sealed all the escape routes of the LTTE.

"Nearly 3000 LTTE cadres have been caught by the Lankan army as they tried to flee into the safe zone along with the civilians. The question is will Prabhakaran (LTTE chief V Prabhakaran) be able to hold out in the small pocket into which they are bottled into by the Lankan forces. On Thursday one of the top LTTE leaders who surrendered to the Lankan forces said that Prabhakaran has three options. The first is to commit suicide by consuming cyanide, secondly he may surrender and lay down arms and thirdly he might use civilians trapped in the six square km stretch as human shield and escape by the sea route."

But Sri Lankan army and navy are determined that LTTE leaders must stand trial and therefore all attempts are being made to apprehend them.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka has also denied reports that a proposed loan from the International Monetary Fund is being delayed by the US apparently to pressurise Colombo to do more to help civilians trapped in the war zone.

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