February 12, 2009 (AFP) – Sri Lankan troops killed 28 Tamil rebels and seized a cache of weapons and ammunition in their latest push for victory in the island’s drawn-out ethnic conflict, the government said Thursday. The Red Cross carried out a similar sea evacuation of 240 patients on Tuesday, saying the group had been stranded at the makeshift hospital deep inside rebel territory for more than a week.
The aid organisation said 16 patients died when shells hit the facility on Monday, but it did not say who was responsible for the attack in an area where government troops and Tamil rebels are locked in fierce combat.
Sri Lanka’s military denied it was responsible and said the Tigers may have been to blame.
Claims by either side can not be verified as human rights groups, diplomats and independent journalists are not allowed to report freely from the conflict zone.
The government, which accuses the Tigers of holding thousands of civilians as “human shields,” on Thursday declared a new “safe zone” where it said non-combatants should gather after fleeing the rebels. Security forces captured nine mortar tubes from a fortified camp at Kuppilankulam on Wednesday, the defence ministry said in a st