Sri Lanka's Tamil rebels said today that 1,000 civilians died in a government raid on their territory, an operation the military says freed thousands of noncombatants from the war zone. Government forces deny the accusation, and say they rescued thousands of civilians yesterday after they broke through a barrier built by the rebels to protect their territory. By this evening, the military said 52,000 had escaped.
But as troops have pushed the rebels into an ever-shrinking sliver of territory, each side has accused the other of endangering civilians. Rights groups say the rebels are holding many against their will to use as human shields. But those groups have also accused the government of indiscriminate shelling in its bid to end the 25-year war. Both sides deny the allegations against them, and journalists are forbidden to enter the war zone.