Sri Lankan military begins two-day ceasefire

April 13, 2009 (AFP) – Sri Lankan security forces began a two-day ceasefire on Monday, as the government called for the cornered Tamil Tiger rebels to allow thousands of civilians to flee the conflict zone.

The Tigers, who are accused of holding the civilians hostage, have suffered months of battlefield setbacks that could finally end their campaign for an independent Tamil homeland after 37 years of violence. Troops halted their offensive on the orders of President Mahinda Rajapakse to mark the traditional Sinhala and Tamil New Year, military spokesman Udaya Nanayakkara said.

“We are not conducting any offensive operations,” Nanayakkara said. “We have not fired and we have not received any fire so far from the other side.”

He said that government troops had not reported any civilians leaving the remaining rebel-held territory since the ceasefire began.