The Sri Lankan military says it is one step closer to ending a 25-year
uprising by ethnic Tamil militants fighting for a separate homeland in
this Indian Ocean island's northern tip. The military says it has
captured a key rebel sea base.
The area in northeastern Sri
Lanka that is controlled by the country's rebel group, the Liberation
Tigers of Tamil Eelam, gets smaller every day.
Sri Lankan army
spokesman Udaya Nanayakkara says the capture of the rebel naval base at
Chalai is another sign that Asia's longest-running war is coming to an
"Strategically, the was another logistic base where they
got all their supplies," he said. "With the capturing of this [sea
base] all their supply activities will be completely curtailed."
capture of the rebel naval base could not be independently verified
since Sri Lanka's government prohibits journalists from entering
Nanayakkara said more than 1,000
civilians fled a government-controlled safe zone to escape intense
fighting in the northeast, where the Tamil Tigers are trying to defend
their last-remaining strongholds.
Civilians trapped in fighting
A huge number of civilians are
trapped in the fighting and civilian casualties are rising, says the
U.N. and other relief agencies.
Sarasi Wijeratne is the spokesperson for the International Committee for the Red Cross, which is operating in the war-hit areas.
estimate there to be about 250,000 people who have been caught in the
fighting," said Wijeratne. "And there are concerns for the physical
safety because of ongoing combat operations and these people being
confined to an increasingly small area."
About 300 patients,
mainly civilians wounded in the conflict, were evacuated to a community
center within rebel-held territory, aid workers say. The hospital
where they were staying had been repeatedly shelled in the fighting.
government has urged civilians to move to a "safe zone" near town of
Mullaittivu, but human rights groups and some diplomatic sources say
Tamil rebels often refuse to allow people to leave.
Tiger rebels have been fighting since 1983 for an independent homeland
for Sri Lanka's Tamil minority. More than 70,000 people have died in