According to unofficial estimates, nearly 6,500 civilians have been killed and 14,000 wounded in fighting in Sri Lanka since January 20th, when the Sri Lankan army began its final push to eliminate the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE, a U.S. – designated foreign terrorist organization.
The remnants of the LTTE have been squeezed into a 10 square kilometer area of sandy northern coast. With them are civilians who have been trapped by the fighting, and although over 100,000 have managed to escape since April 20th, at least another 50,000 are believed to be caught between the opposing forces.
The Sri Lankan army says that the Tamil Tigers have been using the trapped civilians as human shields, a claim the Sri Lankan army supported with images taken by an unmanned surveillance drone which appear to show the rebel sentries shooting at those trying to escape.
On April 22nd, representatives of the Tokyo Co-Chairs, a group of international donors for Sri Lanka, comprised of Japan, the European Union, Norway and the United States, met in order to discuss the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka.
They welcomed the escape of a large number of civilians from the conflict zone in northern Sri Lanka. At the same time, they remained deeply concerned about the large number of civilians who are still caught in the conflict area, and they condemned efforts by the LTTE to prevent civilians from leaving.
Ensuring the safety and security of those civilians who remain in the conflict area and respecting international humanitarian law must be the foremost priority of both the Government of Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers. The Tokyo Co-Chairs called on the Government of Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers to end hostilities.
The U.S. believes the Tamil Tigers should lay down arms to a neutral third party, and the Government of Sri Lanka should offer amnesty to most Tigers, excluding the top leadership, and open the way for a political dialogue.