Sri Lanka civilians flee war zone despite suicide strike: govt

February 10, 2009 (AFP) – Thousands of Tamil civilians streamed out of Sri Lanka’s war zone on Tuesday despite a suicide bombing that killed 30 people at a centre for those escaping the fighting, a military official said. More than 6,500 Tamils crossed the frontlines in the northern Mullaittivu region on Monday, Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said, as the military pushed on with its offensive to end the Tamil Tigers’ separatist campaign.

The government accused the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) — as they are formally known — of carrying out the suicide attack to halt the flow of civilians out of the jungle territory that the rebels still control.

Monday’s bombing was condemned by the United Nations and the United States, which backed Colombo’s stance, saying that it was an “apparent effort by the LTTE to discourage Tamils from leaving the conflict area.”

International governments and the Sri Lankan authorities have accused the Tigers of holding the civilians as “human shields.”

“What we are seeing is that more people are coming over to our side,” Nanayakkara said. “The Tigers have also been firing mortars at the routes taken by the civilians, but still they want to escape from the fighting