Sri Lanka urges war-hit civilians to move to ‘safe zone’

January 21, 2009 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s military Wednesday asked civilians living in the last remaining rebel-held areas in the island’s northeast to move into a declared safe zone ahead of a major showdown. The army said in a statement that it had declared a “safe zone” for tens of thousands of civilians trapped in the district of Mullaittivu, the last stronghold of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

“The military appeals to those besieged civilians to move into those areas,” the army said, giving a list of villages in rebel-held territory that it says will not be targeted by advancing security forces.

The army asked civilians to move into the specified zone “as soon as possible.”

The army announcement came as the Tigers accused the military of shelling civilian areas of Mullaittivu and killing 17 civilians and wounding over 50 on Monday and Tuesday.

The military has denied targeting civilians, and instead accuses the LTTE of using civilians as human shields.