13 Apr 2009

48-hour ceasefire declared in Sri Lanka

4:35 pm on 13 April 2009

The Sri Lankan military has announced a 48-hour ceasefire in operations against Tamil Tiger rebels in the north-east of the country.

The United Nations estimates 100,000 civilians are trapped in a government-designated "no-fire zone", the last remaining territory held by the rebels, who are close to defeat. The UN fears a potential civilian bloodbath.

President Mahinda Rajapakse's office said on Sunday the ceasefire would allow civilians to leave the conflict zone and to celebrate the Sinhala and Tamil New Year in the next two days.

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon welcomed the respite and said more aid would be sent to help civilians.

There was no immediate comment from the Tigers, who have been fighting for an independent Tamil homeland for 37 years.