GOVERNMENT RESCUE FREES THOUSANDS OF CIVILIANS
FROM LTTE ENCLAVE
PRESIDENT ORDERS IMMEDIATE AID
More than 35,000 civilians poured out of the
Tamil Tiger LTTE-held zone in northeast Sri Lanka Monday after
government troops breached an embankment that opened a passage
into LTTE territory.
The civilians, who had been held by the Liberation
Tigers of Tamil Eelam as a human shield for weeks, carried suitcases
and belongings with them as they fled out of the LTTE zone.
A camera on a Sri Lankan military unmanned aerial
vehicle captured the snaking line of civilians as they moved quickly
over to the government lines.
click here to view the video)
Later Monday, another 1,000 civilians were rescued
on the northern end of the slender no-fire zone at Plamattalan,
South of Challai, according to the Defense Ministry. Aerial observations
indicated nearly 3,000 civilians have been rushing towards the
northern boundary of the no-fire-zone along the coastline. The
ministry also reported that a large group of people attacked the
LTTE cadres who attempted to stop them and crossed over to the
army line amid LTTE small arms fire.
The sudden rush of civilians away from the LTTE
forces seemed to undermine longstanding LTTE claims that civilians
were remaining with the fighting force voluntarily.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa called the military’s
efforts “The world’s largest hostage rescue mission,”
and immediately ordered that all necessary food and medicine be
dispatched to aid the newly displaced persons. President Rajapaksa
viewed aerial footage of the escape at Sri Lankan Air Force headquarters.
President Rajapaksa also issued an ultimatum
to the LTTE, giving it 24 hours to surrender and release the remaining
civilians it still holds hostage. The government estimates that
about 50,000 civilians remain trapped by the LTTE.
The escape began when Sri Lankan troops captured
a 3-kilometer embankment once held by the LTTE on the western
border of the government-declared “No-Fire“ zone.
Videotape of the escape showed a long, snaking line of civilians
moving rapidly away from the LTTE toward a breach in the embankment.
In some instances, civilians were seen running and fording a waist-high
The government said that all hostages held in
the Ampalavanpokkanai and Valayanmadam areas were rescued.
Unfortunately, Monday’s mass escape was
not without casualties. Fleeing civilians reported being shot
at by the LTTE. Government troops reported that three LTTE suicide
bombers ignited blasts among groups of fleeing civilians, killing
dozens of them.
“The terrorists initially fired at the
civilians on the causeway using heavy machine guns,” a defense
source said. “When they stepped into the lagoon to avoid
the LTTE machine gun fire, three LTTE cadres ran on to them and
The military reported that several thousand more
civilians are awaiting rescue in the same area.
Embassy of Sri Lanka
20 April 2009