Page last updated at 08:49 GMT, Friday, 29 August 2008 09:49 UK

Lanka military leaflets civilians

By Roland Buerk
BBC News, Colombo

Government leaflet dropped in northern Sri Lanka
The leaflet urges civilians to save their lives

Sri Lanka's air force has begun dropping leaflets urging civilians to leave northern areas controlled by Tamil Tiger rebels.

The move comes ahead of what is expected to be a fight to the finish in Sri Lanka's protracted civil war.

Aid agencies say 134,000 displaced people are in Kilinochchi district alone, where the rebels have their administrative headquarters.

More than half of them have abandoned their homes in the last three months.

The military has advanced rapidly into Tiger territory during that time.

'Huge defeats'

Residents of the town of Kilinochchi said a helicopter flew low overhead during the night, dropping thousands of leaflets.

The leaflets, written in Tamil, said the rebels were facing huge defeats and urged civilians to save their lives by leaving for government-held territory.

A spokesman for Sri Lanka's Air force, Wing Commander Janaka Nanayakkara, said more leaflets had been scattered in areas of Mullaitivu district, also in the north of the island.

There has been increasing concern about civilians as the military continues a major offensive aimed at crushing the rebels, who want a separate state for Sri Lanka's Tamil minority.

Aid agencies say in the last three months as many as 75,000 people have fled ahead of the military's advance further into Kilinochchi district and other Tiger-held areas.

They have swelled the numbers of those already displaced by earlier fighting.

The government has accused the rebels of planning to use civilians as human shields to protect their administrative headquarters in Kilinochchi town.

But Suresh Premachandran, a member of parliament for the rebel-backed Tamil National Alliance, said people were reluctant to move into government-controlled areas because they feared abductions and killings and being confined in camps.

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