Sri Lanka vows to flush out Tigers, civilians flee fighting

COLOMBO, Dec 13, 2006 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s army chief vowed to drive out Tiger guerrillas from the island’s restive east as dozens of civilians fled their shelters Wednesday amid a lull in shelling.

The commander of the army, Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka, said the military had captured two guerrilla defence lines inside their Vakarai stronghold, according to the state-run Dinamina newspaper.

“The people will be liberated from the Tigers very soon and the Tigers will be driven out of the eastern province,” Fonseka said in an interview with the Sinhalese-language daily.

He said between 350 and 400 Tigers had been killed in the clashes in the Vakarai area in the past few days, but did not mention any military losses.

His remarks were published as the number of people seeking refuge in the northeastern district of Trincomalee rose to 4,500 from 3,300 over the weekend, local officials said.

Nearly 400 Tamil civilians also fled to safer locations in the neighbouring Batticaloa district to avoid shelling by government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels.

Military officials said there was a lull in shelling after the airforce bombed a suspected Tamil Tiger artillery position in the Va