Tens of thousands of refugees have taken advantage of a Sri Lankan military advance against Tamil Tiger separatists to flee the fighting in the rebel-held territory.
Wading through a river, most bringing only what they could carry, they were clearly desperate to leave the horrors of the combat zone. This is the endgame of the 25-year civil war, and many here are relieved. “My feeling is that the Tigers must be finished off. Our soldiers are fighting well, if they finish this then we will be free and can travel without fear. We can make a living, which we couldn’t do during the conflict,” said one man. Another added: “The war is almost over. I am hoping that the little bit left will soon be over and the country can prosper, if not for us then for future generations.” It is difficult to get a clear picture of what is happening, as the whole region is off-limits to outsiders. The government has denied rebel accusations of targeting civilians, claiming the Tigers themselves are using them as human shields. The concern is that an unknown number may still be trapped by the fighting in the ever-shrinking strip of Tamil-held territory.