Civilians pour out of Sri Lanka war zone: govt

February 8, 2009 (AFP) – At least 10,000 civilians have escaped Sri Lanka’s war zone in the last four days, the government said Sunday, as the president warned Tamil Tiger rebels to surrender unconditionally or be killed.

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.

“Over 10,000 civilians have come to Kilinochchi while 139 others have come to Jaffna since the Independence Day (Wednesday),” the defence ministry said. “Among the rescued civilians are over 2,800 children and about 3,000 women.”

The ministry added that medical care, food and water was being provided at the frontlines for the fleeing civilians, who it says were among those held by the Tigers as “human shields.”

Government reports of the civilians’ movement and recent army advances cannot be verified because journalists, aid groups and international observers are not allowed into the conflict zone.

Hundreds of non-combatants have been killed this year, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross, and global concern has mounted that a major humanitarian crisis is un