As hundreds of trapped civilians started fleeing the war zone, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has promised the United Nations that his forces would protect Tamils as it pushed ahead with its offensive to defeat the LTTE.
Rajapaksa gave this assurance over telephone to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who was in New Delhi last night and came as his forces overran the last base of the sea Tigers near Mulaittivu, cutting off all their escape routes.
The President's words that his military will protect the non-combatants also come at a time when there have been reports of mounting civilian casualties in the war zone, where an estimated 250,000 civilians are trapped.
"Rajapaksa told the UN Secretary General that the current military operations to defeat terrorism in Sri Lanka would be carried out without harassment to the civilian population in the north", an official release said.
President Rajapaksa gave the Secretary General an update on the progress of operations against the LTTE and the situation regarding the civilians in the affected areas in the north of Sri Lanka, it said.
International pressure has been building up recently, asking Colombo to enforce a 'no-fire' period to allow trapped civilians to move to safer areas. But authrorities here have rejected the proposals, saying that the military operations would be carried on.