In the second attack on civilians in as many days,LTTE cadres on Tuesday gunned down 19 Tamils,including women and children,and wounded 75 others apparently to stop them from fleeing rebel-held areas,the military said.
Survivors of the attack arrived at a military post and narrated how Tamil Tigers fired on them as they tried to cross the frontlines,army spokesman Udaya Nanayakkara said. The LTTE cadres opened fire to stop them from seeking shelter with the security forces,he added.
With the LTTE fast losing territory under their control in fierce fighting with the troops,thousands of refugees were streaming out of the war zone in the northern region.
The attack took place as the Red Cross began loading more than 400 sick and wounded onto a boat in a daring rescue operation near LTTE-held Pudukudiyiruppu. Nanayakkara said the attack took place around 6 am in Udayarkattu,also in Pudukudiyyrippu.
This was the second major attempt by the Tigers to stop the Tamil civilians,who the government said were being held as human shields. On Monday,a woman suicide bomber blew herself up in a refugee centre in Mullaitivu,killing 29 people.
Meanwhile,the troops on Tuesday captured a strategic area in Mullaittivu region where fighter jets carried out strikes on rebel targets to support the advancing army,officials said. Troops gained control of the west of Kuravilkulam area and recovered arms and ammunition,they said. Further search operations were being conducted,the military said.