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Apr 26, 2009 at 02:49am IST

Cornered LTTE using civilians as human shield

Killinochi (Sri Lanka): The Sri Lankan army claims that the battle with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) s in the final stages.

Sri Lankan air force on Saturday released a video showing a LTTE tank positioned behind temporary shelters built by Tamil civilians and firing from inside the no-fire zone at the advancing soldiers.

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In what is a clear evidence of LTTE using civilians as a human shield, the tank is seen directing its fire over the refugee colony at the troops knowing that retaliatory fire by the Sri Lankan army would result in civilian casualties.

"The fact is that LTTE won't allow them to come in. Now they are wearing civils and coming with civilians and firing at us," said Brigadier Sahvendra Silva.

The visuals taken by a Sri Lankan aerial surveillance plane also show civilians running towards government controlled areas, breaking free from the clutches of the LTTE.

The Sri Lankan army says that its operation to rescue the civilians trapped in the no-fire zone will continue. The army also says that every effort will be made to track Prabhakaran (LTTE chief V Prabhakaran) and other top LTTE leaders in the no-fire zone.

The army says it has information that all top LTTE leaders are confined in a 10-square kilometre stretch in Mullaitivu.

The video also shows a long line of civilians, stretching over a couple of kilometres, walking along the coast line.

The Sri Lankan government estimates that about 1.6 lakh civilians have escaped and around 20,000 civilians continue to be trapped in the no-fire zone, which has now shrunk to five-square km.

Senior government officials have told CNN-IBN that there is urgent need for medicines, food and tents.

"We do not want any civilian casualty and His Excellency the President has given very strict orders that we will not tolerate any civilian casualty," said Sri Lankan Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Hussein Bhaila.

Another aerial surveillance video shows LTTE cadres firing at the civilians gathered at the seafront.

Sensing its imminent defeat the LTTE is forcing civilians to remain inside the no-fire zone at gunpoint.

Government sources say the next three days will be crucial in bringing the war to a successful closure.