A suicide bomber killed 24 people today when she blew herself up among a group of soldiers searching civilians fleeing Sri Lanka's northern war zone.
The bombing, the first major suicide attack in Sri Lanka in more than a month, led to fears Tamil Tiger separatists are increasingly turning to guerrilla tactics.
Following a string of victories, government forces have backed the rebels into a small strip of land on the northeastern coast, where the Red Cross estimates 250,000 civilians are also trapped.
The military has accused the rebels of holding the civilians as human shields, while the rebels - fighting since 1983 for a separate state for the ethnic Tamil minority - have accused the government of indiscriminate shelling, leading to civilian casualties.
In this morning's bombing, more than 800 civilians had crossed the front lines and were being searched by soldiers before being sent to camps further south.
A military spokesman said that when the attacker was frisked, she set off a bomb she was wearing, killing 24 people and injuring 20 others.
Officials said the flow of civilians out of the war zone has increased in recent days, with 4,700 fleeing yesterday.
In a separate attack today, the Sri Lankan air force hit a camouflaged building inland where officials claim the rebels' sea wing hid its craft.
While on Saturday 34 rebels were killed when trying to break through government lines in an armoured truck.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies