Sri Lankan rebels cornered in 'no-fire zone'

The Tamil Tigers left their stronghold and fled to an area where thousands of civilians are trapped.

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A daily summary of global reports on security issues.

The Tamil Tiger rebels have abandoned their last stronghold and fled to a tiny "no-fire zone" on the northeast coast of Sri Lanka, according to the island-nation's defense ministry.

There, tens of thousands of civilians remain trapped by the conflict, which now appears headed toward a final reckoning. (See map of the area with this BBC story.)

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Sri Lanka's Daily News reported that the top leaders of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elaam (LTTE), including Velupillai Prabhakaran, fled their stronghold just before Sri Lankan troops closed in. The paper reported that Tiger commanders abandoned their luxury bungalows, a bullet-proof limousine, and other vehicles.

The Indian newspaper The Hindu reported that top Tiger leaders had been killed in recent fighting, citing Sri Lankan Defense Ministry claims based on "intercepted enemy communication."

The BBC says there are some 40,000 to 100,000 civilians in the 20 square km (12.5 mile) coastal area, where the surviving rebels are now holed up. It quoted the United Nations as saying that nearly 3,000 civilians may have been killed and 7,000 others injured in the last two months. The Sri Lankan government denies that.

The BBC also reported Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse as saying "We have no plans of going into the safe zone immediately. Our aim is to get the civilians safely out of the no-fire zone. So, we are watching at the moment."

Bloomberg reported that Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Sunday called upon the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elaam (LTTE) to surrender unconditionally, to protect civilians caught in the cross-fire.

Xinhua reported that the Sri Lanka military said Monday that more than 2,100 civilians had fled the remaining sliver of rebel-held territory beginning Sunday.

Military officials said they had killed 480 rebels over the weekend, according to Agence France-Presse, and said the rebels are now hiding amid the civilians.

Meanwhile, The Toronto Star reported that support for the Tamil Tigers is rising in diaspora communities in Canada – a group numbering 200,000 in the greater Toronto area.

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