B. Muralidhar Reddy

Asks the LTTE to release civilians in the war zone within 48 hours

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Thursday night gave an ultimatum to the LTTE to release the civilians trapped in the war zone within the next 48 hours to ensure their safety and security.

He said his government was poised to take decisive steps to restore democracy in the north.

In a statement here, Mr. Rajapaksa said his government would ensure a safe passage to the civilians held up in the remaining areas under the control of the LTTE.

“I also assure all those living in the North and in conflict areas in particular, that vacating LTTE-held areas will ensure their physical security and enable peace, freedom and rights for all citizens of this country.”

His statement came amid growing concerns over the fate of an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 civilians caught in the cross fire in the fighting between the Sri Lanka forces and the LTTE.

Mr. Rajapaksa said that being acutely conscious of the welfare of the civilians forcibly being held in the conflict zone by the LTTE his government has declared a safe zone for civilians, the coordinates of which were announced by the security forces.

“This is to ensure that they stay out of harm’s way during engagements between Security Forces and armed LTTE cadres, and to assure the safety and security of civilians. It is unfortunate that the LTTE is exploiting this declared safe zone for civilians by placing their heavy artillery within the safe zone and using it as a launching pad to attack Security Forces and indiscriminately kill civilians.”

He said since his election as President in November 2005, his government had always been concerned about the welfare of all citizens of Sri Lanka and their economic and social progress and maintained that the welfare of the citizens of the Northern and Eastern Provinces, especially of those in areas dominated by the LTTE, had been of even greater concern to his government.

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