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Page last updated at 05:20 GMT, Saturday, 16 May 2009 06:20 UK

Sri Lanka army 'controls coast'

An image released by the Sri Lankan military shows soldiers patrolling along the war zone in Vellamullivaikal, Sri Lanka (15.05.2009)
A pincer movement is underway to "clear" the remaining Tamil rebels

The army in Sri Lanka has said it has captured the last section of coastline held by Tamil Tiger rebels in the north-east of the country.

The rebels are cornered by troops in a tiny enclave in a final confrontation that has trapped many civilians.

For the first time ever the rebels do not have sea access, and the army is "progressing" to clear remaining rebel-held land, Brig Udaya Nanayakkara said.

More than 70,000 people have died in the 26-year war for a Tamil homeland.

Fighting on the shoreline itself was not very heavy compared with elsewhere, the brigadier told the BBC.

The BBC's Charles Haviland in Colombo says there is speculation that the rebels would launch suicide attacks against the army.

Trapped civilians

The Sri Lankan military said 10,000 civilians escaped the war zone on Friday, but our correspondent says there is huge concern for the fate of the many thousands still trapped.

The UN Security Council has expressed "grave concern" at the "worsening humanitarian crisis" in the region.

Over the last week, US President Barack Obama has urged the army to stop shelling of civilian areas and called on the rebels to lay down their arms.

But the government in Colombo has consistently rejected calling a halt to the offensive saying it would give the rebels time to recover.

An image released by Sri Lanka's military civilians are shown wading ashore after crossing lagoon in Vellamullivaikal, Sri Lanka away from the war zone (14.05.2009)
Many thousands of civilians remain unable to escape the war zone

Meanwhile the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's chief of staff, Vijay Nambiar, is due to arrive in Colombo later for a second attempt to press for a negotiated end to the war.

More than 200,000 civilians who escaped the war zone over the last few months are living in government-controlled camps.

Aid charities say a growing number of traumatised, malnourished children were becoming separated from their families as they fled the war zone and entered the camps.

Carnage

The founder of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam organisation, Vellupillai Prabhakaran began the fight for a separate state for Sri Lanka's minority Tamils in the early 1970s, progressing into a violent civil war in 1983.

The Sri Lanka military intelligence believe Prabhakaran and other senior leaders are in the remaining rebel-held territory, Reuters news agency reported Brig Nanayakkara said.

The Tamil Tigers have posted a response to the Sri Lankan army's military breakthrough on the internet.

A conventional victory would only mean a new phase of conflict, galvanised by the deaths of Tamils, a pro-rebel website quoted a senior Tamil Tigers leader as saying.

"Colombo's approach to finish the war in 48 hours through a carnage and bloodbath of civilians will never resolve a conflict of decades," S Pathmanathan was quoted as saying.

"On the contrary it will only escalate the crisis to unforeseen heights."

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