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Page last updated at 15:23 GMT, Friday, 3 October 2008 16:23 UK

Civilians flee Tamil Tiger centre

By Swaminathan Natarajan
BBC Tamil service

Tamil Tiger peace secretariat in Kilinochchi
This rebel building was damaged on Thursday, the Tigers say.

Large numbers of civilians are reported to be fleeing the northern Sri Lankan town of Kilinochchi in the face of more air force attacks.

Kilinochchi is the administrative headquarters of Tamil Tiger rebels fighting for a separate Tamil state.

On Friday the air force targeted the Tigers' police HQ, reports say.

Aid agencies estimate about 200,000 people have been displaced by the fighting. The government says it is on the verge of defeating the Tigers.

'Moving east'

Although Kilinochchi is the centre of the rebels' administration, the central government in Colombo still organises health, education and other services there.

map

The government's top civil servant, or government agent, in Kilinochchi district, Nagalingam Vedanayagan, confirmed that there were more attacks on Kilinochchi town on Friday.

"Shelling and other attacks are taking place in Kilinochchi," he told the BBC Tamil service. "To escape the fighting people are moving towards the east. Most of them have been moving out."

He also said six people were killed in air attacks on Thursday.

A local resident undergoing treatment in Kilinochchi's hospital said the situation there was very tense. "In the morning we heard a big noise of the fighter aircraft... in the late afternoon there was another air attack. We are very scared. Once the doctor comes and takes off the bandages, I am planning to get out of this place."

The Sri Lankan government is urging people to move out from the rebel controlled Wanni region to government controlled areas.

But the hospital patient said that was not an option. "There is no road. There is no public transport to (government-controlled) Vavuniya, we cannot go there."

'Taking little'

Another resident said nearly everyone had left Kilinochchi town. "Some people are paying 10,000 to 15,000 rupees ($90-135) to hire lorries and move out.

UN food convoy
The UN has managed to unload a convoy of food aid

"But many people don't have that money and are moving out on bicycles or auto rickshaws. They are taking very little with them.

"All the shops and hotels are closed," he said. "People are living under trees. They don't even have a mat to sleep on. There is no electricity."

The army said earlier this week that it was moving closer towards capturing the town after "intensive fighting".

Meanwhile a UN aid convoy has managed to unload all its food in Kilinochchi.

Fifty-one trucks carrying around 650 tonnes of food passed through the crossing point at Omanthai into territory controlled by the Tamil Tigers on Thursday.

The food is the first to be sent by the UN since it and other aid agencies were ordered out of rebel areas by the government.

According to the military, soldiers are now only 3.5km (two miles) from the outskirts of Kilinochchi.

But with journalists barred from the area the claims cannot be independently verified.




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