Colombo: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Thursday said the fight-to-finish military campaign against Tamil rebels was fast nearing its end and troops are gaining ground into the last rebel strongholds.
"The war with the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) is rapidly nearing its conclusion and it is my hope that this will create the space for democracy to flourish in the north again," Rajapaksa said in an address to the Colombo-based diplomatic community.
"At long last we are on the threshold of defeating terrorism and face a new era of lasting peace and security for all Sri Lankans," he said.
According to state figures, nearly 200,000 people have fled the war zone and come to the government-controlled areas since the beginning of this year.
They have been temporarily housed at refugee camps and welfare centres in the northern Vavuniya town.
Calling it the "greatest rescue operation in the world", Rajapaksa said that troops have carried out meticulous operations to rescue civilians from the LTTE in the northeastern Mullaitivu district since April 20.
"In my view, the urgent need of the hour is the sensitivity and understanding of the international community on ground realities," Rajapaksa said, asking the diplomats to exert "pressure on the LTTE to lay down arms and surrender".
The president said the government "is now facing the daunting task of providing security and needs of displaced persons who are now in the welfare villages".
"The government has mobilized all the relevant agencies and stakeholders who are working together to provide the basic needs of these innocent civilians," Rajapaksa said.
Earlier this week, the defence ministry had said that the troops have cornered the LTTE into a small strip of land and were now "surging in three frontal ground manoeuvres to rescue civilians held hostage by the LTTE at gunpoint".
According to defence authorities, troops making fresh advances have captured a part of the LTTE built earth bund in the early hours on Thursday following heavy confrontations.
They said that the bodies of LTTE cadres killed during the confrontations "were scattered ahead of the defence line" and they have recovered three rebel bodies Wednesday evening.
The rebels led by Velupillai Prabhakaran have been fighting to carve out a separate Tamil state in Sri Lanka over the past quarter century.
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