Fears are growing for thousands of civilian refugees caught up in Sri Lanka’s assault on the Tamil Tiger rebels. Latest reports say around 60,000 people have escaped the fighting, some helped by the Sri Lankan military. But it is feared just as many more remain trapped between the advancing army and the Tiger forces.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have fought for an independent homeland in northern Sri Lanka for 26 years and insist they will never surrender. But they are hugely out-gunned and have nowhere to run. The Red Cross says the situation is deteriorating by the day, and fears for the safety of the refugees in what may be the last act of Asia’s longest-running war. “We are extremely worried about the tens of thousands of civilians who are trapped in this rapidly-shrinking no-fire zone,” said Pierre Kraehenbuehl, the ICRC Head of Operations. “We consider their situation to be nothing short of catastrophic.” Independent journalists are banned from covering the fighting, but the Red Cross released dramatic pictures of wounded refugees. The agency said the next 48 hours will be decisive.