The Sri Lankan government has said that it was no longer responsible for the safety of the displaced Tamil civilians staying in the fast shrinking areas controlled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
The government said it was responsible only for the security of civilians living within the safe zone.
"However, the Government cannot be responsible for the safety and security of civilians still living among the LTTE terrorists. The Government, therefore, calls on all civilians to enter the demarcated safety zone as soon as possible to ensure their safety and security, '' it said in a statement.
It added that the security forces were unable to give safety assurance to those who remain outside these zones. "Therefore, the government, with full responsibility, urges all civilians to come to the safety zones; and also states that as civilians who do not heed this call will be among LTTE cadres, the security forces will not be able to accept responsibility for their safety," it added.
The government's statement indicates that civilian casualties could rapidly rise as the Sri Lankan army (SLA) pushes into the remaining rebel territory with all its might. In another development, the Ministry of Healthcare and Nutrition has instructed health officials and doctors to move out of areas of conflict and move to the safe zone.
"I advised them to move out of the areas where fighting was taking place into the designated-no-fire-security-zone or the liberated areas of Vavuniya and Kilinochchi with the assistance of ICRC (International Committee for the Red Cross) in order to avoid causing loss of life or injury to the civilians in those hospitals," secretary, H. A. P. Kahandaliyanage said.
He urged the diplomatic community and the ICRC to ``persuade the LTTE to allow these patients and civilians along with the medical staff to move into the Fire Free Security Zone or Vaviniya and Kilinochchi hospitals to avoid any threat or harm to their lives.''
On the field, the SLA on Tuesday claimed to have captured a luxury hideout of LTTE chief, V Prabhakaran, in the north-eastern district of Mullaitivu. Twenty LTTE cadres were killed in the fighting before the capture.
"The two storied underground built residential complex was located in a two acre coconut cultivated land which was well fortified, provided with all-round protection from adjacent gun positions and bunker locations…the underground bunker runs 50ft deep, protected with a 3 feet thick layer of concrete," the defence ministry said.
The ministry added that the underground bunker was fully air-conditioned comprising four furnished compartments and tiled floors. Three soundproof power generators were used to supply electricity to the residential site and the adjacent bunkers.
The SLA also claimed to have captured the seventh and last LTTE airstrip in the Puthukuddirippu area of Mullaitivu. The airstrip was 2 km long and 50 metres wide.