May 17, 2009 (AFP) – Sri Lankan troops on Sunday killed at least 70 Tamil Tiger rebels trying to escape across a shallow lagoon using boats, military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said. The guerrillas tried to break out of the pocket of land where they have been holed up in the northeast of the island, Nanayakkara said.
“Troops observed the six boats in the lagoon and destroyed them,” he said. “We recovered 70 bodies and an identification process is underway.”
He said he did not believe that the Tamil Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was among those in the boats.
Nanayakkara said about 50,000 civilians had poured out of the war zone in the past three days, making it the biggest exodus since April 20, when 115,000 people escaped after troops breached a Tiger defence line.
“The flow of civilians from the area has slowed down and we feel that almost all those who were inside have now managed to get out,” he said.
There was no immediate comment from the Tamil Tigers, but the pro-rebel Tamilnet website said there was “close-quarter fighting in all fronts.”
It said the military pounded the rebels using artillery.
“There are heavy casualties tha