April 23, 2009 (AFP) – Tamil Tiger rebels encircled in a tiny strip of land by Sri Lankan government troops are continuing to put up stiff resistance despite calls for their surrender, the military said Thursday. The army said the guerrillas controlled just 10-12 square kilometres (around four square miles) of territory on the northeast coast, and that thousands of civilians were also still trapped by the fighting.
Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara, the island’s military spokesman, said the Tigers were using artillery and tanks.
“There are sporadic clashes but our priority is to get the civilians out. We can finish them off very quickly after the civilians get out of the way,” he added.
“We can claim we have completely defeated the Tigers when we have captured the remaining area.”
The rebels have been repeatedly accused of using civilians as human shields. Around 100,000 people have managed to escape rebel-held territory this week, and it was unclear precisely how many were still trapped.
Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapakse has told the rebels to give up, but has ruled out any amnesty for rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, who has led a ruthless decades-long battle for a separate