Troops storm rebel area in Sri Lanka, rescue 5,000 civilians

Troops storm rebel area in Sri Lanka, rescue 5,000 civilians Colombo  - Government troops stormed a coastal village in north-eastern Sri Lanka Monday and rescued about 5,000 civilians who were prevented by Tamil rebels from leaving into military-controlled areas, military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said.

He said troops broke through an earthen barrier in Puthumathalan village, 390 kilometres north-east of the capital, in the early hours of Monday and rescued the civilians, including a large number of women and children.

The civilians have been trapped in a 12-kilometer stretch along the coastal area for the past three months, though some of the villagers have been able to escape against the wishes of the rebels, military officials said.

According to army estimates, some 70,000 civilians remain in the coastal areas where drinking water is scarce. The government has been sending shipments of food by sea into the area.

An estimated 68,000 civilians have left the rebel-held areas and are currently in camps controlled by the government.

The military says it is in the last phase of a military drive to crush the Tamil rebels of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. (dpa)