A new surge of Tamil refugees has began to come out of the war zone in north-eastern Sri Lanka braving bullets and artillery shells on Thursday. This possibly is beginning of the end to the 26-year-old conflict between the LTTE and successive Sinhala-majority dominated governments.
By 7 pm on Thursday, more than 2,600 refugees had walked across a shallow lagoon with their meagre belongings.
“We expect more refugees to come out during the night. This is the largest number to come out of the area since last month, when more than a lakh came out. The LTTE fired at them today, killing four and injuring 14,’’ military spokesperson, Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara, told HT.
The United Nations’ acting representative for Sri Lanka, Amin Awad, told Reuters that local sources in the combat zone confirmed up to 6,000 were in the water or safely across.
Both the Lankan government and the LTTE on Thursday brushed aside demands from the UN’s Security Council – which discussed the Lankan issue formally for the first time on Wednesday — and US President Barack Obama to take steps to protect the civilians.
Tales of horror continued to come out of the civilian safety zone (CSZ). “Bodies are piling up. It is difficult to step out of the bunkers and bury the bodies. The hospital has almost collapsed. The remaining volunteers are not willing to go to the hospital for fear of shelling,’’ government doctor, T Varatharajah, told HT over phone from inside the CSZ.
The LTTE on Thursday called upon the international community to protect the civilians from the ongoing carnage by taking measure required.
The rebels’ political head, B. Nadesan, said that LTTE supported a permanent ceasefire but ruled out laying down arms, which he called a “protective shield”.