3,000 Tamil civilians flee Sri Lankan fighting
Tamil civilians braved flooded, mine-laden jungle paths to flee from separatist fighting into govt-held areas in East Sri Lanka.india Updated: Dec 17, 2006 02:54 IST
About 3,000 Tamil civilians braved flooded, mine-laden jungle paths to flee from separatist fighting into government-held areas in eastern Sri Lanka on Saturday, officials and witnesses said.
"We have set up camps and are trying to provide all facilities to these people who are escaping from the clutches of the terrorists," military spokesman Brig. Prasad Samarasinghe said, referring to Tamil Tiger separatist rebels.
Refugees who managed to flee the area yesterday by sea told The Associated Press that they were held forcibly by the rebels but managed to sneak out while the guerrillas were distracted during artillery and gunfire exchanges with government troops.
The government accuses the rebels of holding the civilians as human shields. On Friday, the United Nations called on the rebels to let tens of thousands of Tamil civilians flee the area.
The government said on Saturday, a total of 17 camps have been set up and some schools have been turned into refugee centers.
There was no immediate comment from the rebels and calls by The Associated Press to their headquarters in Kilinochchi remained unanswered.
The refugees were fleein the rebel-held village of Vaharai in eastern Batticaloa district, where there has been hevy fighting between government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels over the last few weeks.
First Published: Dec 17, 2006 02:54 IST