Video shows LTTE using civilians

COLOMBO: Video footage captured from Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger rebels showed their fighters forcing civilians to assist their war effort and depicted one insurgent in street clothes firing a heavy machine gun, the military said on Thursday.

The government said the footage, posted on the Defence Ministry Web site, proves that the rebels have been putting civilians in the line of fire and have shed their military uniforms so they would be mistaken for non-combatants themselves if killed.

Diplomatic pressure has built on the government to temporarily halt its offensive to allow an estimated 50,000 civilians trapped in the war zone to flee.

The government has refused, saying it is on the verge of defeating the rebels and such a pause would allow them to regroup.

It has denied the reports of heavy civilian casualties and accused the rebels of holding the civilians as human shields.

The video showed a man, apparently a Tamil Tiger fighter, wearing a white, buttoned shirt, firing a heavy machine gun mounted on an armoured vehicle as others in street clothes helped him manoeuvre.

Narration provided by the government said the advancing troops captured the vehicle, killing all the combatants near the village of Mulliavaikkal and recovering the videotape that included footage of the body of a slain rebel.

The video also showed men in civilian clothing camouflaging the armoured vehicle with tree branches and a line of people carrying hoes and walking behind a rebel fighter.

The narrator said the civilians were being taken to dig trenches and erect earth fortifications against the advancing government forces.

Defence spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said the footage backed up the government assertions that the rebels were trying to discredit the government by making it appear as if many innocent civilians were being killed.

“This has been going on for a long time,” he said.