Sri Lanka troops rescue 5,000 civilians: military

April 20, 2009 (AFP) – Sri Lankan security forces captured a defence line of cornered Tamil Tiger rebels on Monday and rescued at least 5,000 civilians being held as human shields, a military spokesman said. Soldiers took control of the three-kilometre (two-mile) embankment at Puthumathalan, inside the government-designated “no-fire” zone, spokesman Udaya Nanayakkara said.

“We captured the earth bund and rescued 5,000 civilians in that area,” he said. “This is the biggest single rescue so far and we believe the number of civilians crossing over to our side will increase.” The government has accused the Tigers of holding tens of thousands of civilians as a human shield, a charge denied by the guerrillas, who are trying to prevent a total defeat after fighting for 37 years for a separate state.