Sri Lankan navy kills five Tiger suicide rebels
Sri Lanka's navy killed five Tamil Tiger suicide rebels as they tried to mingle with refugees fleeing to government-controlled areas in the north, the Defence Ministry said on Monday.

A navy patrol craft detected a rebel boat among three other boats carrying 54 civilians on Sunday. "The navy believes that the LTTE's (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) intention here was to mix with troops on land on the sly and inflict a huge devastation on them," the statement said.

Meanwhile, the first shipment of medical supplies in two weeks has been sent to the last remaining major health facility in Sri Lanka's war zone and 500 civilians have been evacuated from danger, the Red Cross said on Monday. A lack of medicine and supplies has been blamed by the area's top health official for causing the needless deaths of hundreds of hospital patients caught in the all-out offensive the government has launched against Tamil Tiger rebels in hopes of ending the island's 25-year-old civil war.

The supplies arrived in the war zone on the northeast coast on Sunday aboard the "MV Green Ocean," said Sophie Romanens, a Colombo spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross. She did not know how large the shipment was, but said the ship returned with 500 patients and family members. The Red Cross and other international groups have voiced concern recently for the civilians trapped in the last remaining rebel territory. The rebel holdouts --along with tens of thousands of terrified civilians -- are confined to about 11-square miles of jungle and beach on the northeastern coast.

The UN says 150,000 to 180,000 civilians are trapped in the war zone. The government says the figure is much lower, and accuses the Tamil rebels of using the people as human shields. Romanens said there had been an influx of displaced people into the coastal strip near the medical facility and that there was not enough clean water and food for them.

Last week, in a letter to the Health Ministry, officials from two northern Sri Lankan regions hit by the war said just five percent of the needed drugs and dressings had been received in the last quarter of 2008 and the first part of this year. The letter said more than 500 patients had died since January after arriving at hospitals and that thousands more may have died elsewhere in the area.

Besides the 500 evacuated on the Red Cross ship, the military said in a statement that another 845 people, including more than 200 children, crossed over to military-controlled areas on Sunday.
Posted by: Fred 2009-03-24