Fears grow for civilians in Sri Lanka conflict zone

April 22, 2009 (AFP) – US and Red Cross officials pleaded for the lives of tens of thousands of civilians trapped in Sri Lankan jungle Wednesday as government troops pressed a relentless offensive against Tiger rebels. The apparent end game in Sri Lanka has triggered protests around the world, with up to 30,000 Tamil demonstrators clogging the Canadian capital Ottawa to press for mediation.

Similar rallies have been held in London, Paris and North America. Pictures emerging from the conflict zone show children holding onto elders, mothers carrying infants and wounded men and women, many with bandaged limbs, walking through minefields and wading through water to escape.

Sri Lankan forces Tuesday seized more ground from the rebels holed up in a tiny strip of northeast jungle and said they were poised to launch the final assault at any moment.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who have been fighting for an independent Tamil homeland since 1972, acknowledged losing a coastal village they used as a key supply port.

But they ignored a deadline to surrender and accused government forces of killing 1,000 civilians in an offensive they described as a “bloodbath.”

Both sides often accu

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