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Surrender to save your lives, Tamil Tigers told

SRI Lanka's president has appealed to cornered Tamil Tiger rebels to surrender to save their lives and ensure the safety of tens of thousands of civilians trapped with them.

The appeal from President Mahinda Rajapaksa came as the military increased the rebel death toll to at least 453 from three days of battles that pushed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam into a narrow "no-fire" zone.

A total of 2,127 civilians, including 919 children, fled to government-controlled areas late on Sunday after the military captured the last Tiger stronghold outside the "no-fire" zone, a military statement said.

"The only way out for the rebels is to save their lives, and if they lay down arms and surrender, it will save the lives of the trapped civilians too," Rajapaksa said. He "resolutely denied any intentions for a truce and insisted the Tigers must lay down arms and allow civilians a safe passage into liberated areas," the military statement said.

The "no-fire" zone where the rebels are likely to make their last stand in a civil war that has spanned 25 years was declared earlier this year by the government as a safe place for civilians caught in the fighting to go.

But now that the zone is all that remains of rebel territory, the focus turns to what will happen to civilians who fled there in the hope of safety but find themselves caught again.

The UN estimates 150,000 to 190,000 people are trapped there. The government says 30,000 to 40,000 remain with more than 23,000 civilians escaping last month.


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