FRANCE 24’s reporters travelled along the road that leads up to Sri Lanka’s long-lasting front line, where government forces have all but routed the rebel guerrilla. Only armoured vehicles are allowed on to the battlefield where the Tamil Tigers defend their last remaining bastion. This territory of just 70 square kilometres is home to some 200,000 people, torn away from their families.
Up until now, the only pictures of the front line had been filmed by the Tamil Tigers, at a time when they controlled up to a third of the country. Today, however, their former capital city Kilinochchi has fallen to government troops. The army now suspects the guerrilla of having captured Tamil civilians to use them as human shields.
Each day, buses crammed with Tamil refugees reach the city of Vavuniya, in northern Sri Lanka. These witnesses of the fighting confirm the army’s accusations against the Tigers. The refugees hope to find a free and safe haven. Instead, they are led into a camp surrounded by barbed wire. Indeed, government forces fear rebel fighters could be mingling with the escapees.
Sri Lanka’s regular army says the Tigers will soon capitulate, after which the refugees will be able to return to their homes. The government in Colombo has promised to bring peace to the land. It points to the example of the country’s eastern region, wrested from the guerrilla two years ago, where it claims the Tamil population now coexists peacefully with the majority Singhalese. Yet, as is immediately apparent, the area is far from pacified and soldiers are still ubiquitous.