Sri Lanka's government to halt offensive for two days
Monday 13 April 2009
Sri Lanka's president has ordered a two-day suspension of offensives against Tamil Tiger rebels in order to enable tens of thousands of trapped civilians to leave the war zone, his office said yesterday.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa directed the army to restrict operations during the 13-14 April Sri Lankan New Year to those of a defensive nature, and asked the rebel group to "acknowledge its military defeat and lay down its weapons and surrender." The president's call came amid increasing international pressure on the government to protect those civilians trapped along with the remaining guerrillas in a government-declared "no-fire" zone measuring just 7.7 square miles.
The UN says about 100,000 civilians are trapped in the war zone, with dozens dying every day. The government and aid groups accuse the rebels of using civilians as human shields. The rebels and rights groups have accused the military of firing into the safe zone – a charge the military denies. Independent journalists are barred from the war zone.
Britain welcomed the government announcement but said it was vital that rebels also observe the suspension. "The pause must be long enough for all those who want to leave the conflict zone to do so safely," Foreign Secretary David Miliband said in a statement. "Temporary relief for civilians must be the first step towards a resolution of the conflict."
At least 100,000 protesters marched in London on Saturday to demand an immediate end to Sri Lanka's military offensive and the suspension of development aid to Sri Lanka, a former British colony.
Government forces say they are close to victory in the 25-year war. They had previously rejected calls for a pause in the fighting to allow civilians to leave.
- 1 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 2 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 5 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
Ian Brady: Moors murderer announces his support for Ukip and the SNP
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
Bali Nine executions in Indonesia: Death row British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford says she 'just wants to get it over with'
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
£24000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Situated in the heart of Bradfo...
£26000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This busy local Joinery company...
£20000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you recently QCA Level 4 qu...