The United Nations and the European Union are pressing for an immediate ceasefire in Sri Lanka to allow up to 200,000 civilians to escape from the battlefield on which perhaps the final struggle between the government and the Tamil Tigers is now raging. The Tigers say they would accept a truce, but the government is insisting that the rebels lay down their arms and surrender, and this they have so far refused to do.
Government troops have now entered Puthukudiyiruppu, the last town held by the Tigers, who are alleged to be shooting people who try to flee. The rebels also mounted two suicide attacks on Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo with light aircraft, but one was shot down, and the number of deaths on the ground was limited to two.
The Tigers have been fighting for an independent state in the north-east of the island since the 1970’s, claiming that Tamils have been oppressed by the Sinhalese minority in Sri Lanka ever since independence from Britain in 1948. An estimated 70,000 people have died in the fighting.