Colombo, Feb 8: Sri Lankan government on Sunday, Feb 8 said that atleast 10,000 civilians have escaped from the war zone in last four days. President Mahinda Rajapaksa asked the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels to surrender unconditionally or get killed. "I want to tell the Tigers: 'Lay down arms and surrender to security forces," said Rajapaksa.
He added that the rebels had been encircled in a narrow strip of land and had taken thousands of civilians' hostage. "They must let the civilians go and then unconditionally give themselves up. I must warn them we will not halt our operations against terrorism until we reach our final objective," he warned.
"Over 10,000 civilians have come to Kilinochchi while 139 others have come to Jaffna since the Independence Day (Wednesday). Among the rescued civilians are over 2,800 children and about 3,000 women," said a statement from the defence ministry. The ministry added that medical care, food and water were being provided at the frontlines for the fleeing civilians, who it says were among those held by the Tigers as 'human shields.'
Last week the United States, European Union, Japan and Norway had asked the rebels to lay down their arms and take part in a political dialogue to end Sri Lanka's vicious unrest which has claimed an estimated 70,000 lives since 1972.
Military officials said the air force at the weekend launched further strikes on the remnants of the Tamil Tigers after successfully bombing a key rebel hideout Friday, Feb 6 and killing at least 11, including a top leader.
The Tigers have been restricted to an area less than 100 square kilometres (38 square miles) in Mullaittivu, where officials estimate 120,000 civilians are still trapped.
The Tigers are fighting for survival after being driven back into a small patch of jungle by a military offensive that threatens to end their 30-year armed campaign for an independent ethnic Tamil homeland.