January 31, 2009 (AFP) – The Sri Lankan military reported a lull in fighting Saturday with cornered Tamil Tiger rebels, as the Red Cross tried to negotiate the evacuation of more civilian wounded from the conflict zone. “There have been no incidents, no casualties, no terrorist killed or military items recovered from terrorists,” in the past 24 hours, military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said.
Saturday night marks the end of a 48-hour deadline set by President Mahinda Rajapakse for the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to allow civilians to leave the small area of the northeast still under their control.
Rajapakse had vowed to then ensure the civilians’ “safe passage to a secure environment”.
The Sri Lankan military says it is in the final phase of a year-long offensive to wipe out the Tiger guerrillas and end Asia’s longest-running ethnic conflict. Tiger rebels took up arms in 1972.
Nanayakkara stressed that the lull did not constitute the official ceasefire being demanded by many in the international community.
The United Nations says as many as 250,000 civilians may be trapped by the fighting in and around the 300-square-kilometre (110-square-mile) patch of jungl