Army: Sri Lanka War in 'Final Stage'
Tens of thousands of civilians trapped; UN envoy arrives
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted May 15, 2009 6:49 AM CDT
A Sri Lankan army soldier escorts a group of ethnic Tamil civilians who arrived in the government controlled area after leaving the Tamil Tiger controlled warzone, Thursday, May 14, 2009.   (AP Photo/Sri Lankan Army, HO)
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(Newser) – The Sri Lankan government claims to be within 48 hours of capturing the last holdout of Tamil Tigers, as the Red Cross warned of "an unimaginable human catastrophe" for the tens of thousands of civilians trapped in the war zone. Only a few hundred rebels remain in a two-mile-square mile patch on the island's coast. The government, despite denials, is reportedly shelling the region with heavy artillery, reports the BBC, while the rebels are using civilians as human shields.

Ban Ki-moon's chief of staff arrived today in the country for talks, and the UN secretary general himself may travel there soon. Several thousand civilians fled or attempted to flee the war zone yesterday, over land or through a shallow lagoon, but the government continues to refuse international demands for a ceasefire. Yesterday Hillary Clinton said the US would block an IMF loan to Sri Lanka "until there is a resolution of the conflict."