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World

Sri Lanka army gears up for a final assault on Tamil Tigers

The Sri Lankan army has breached one of the last Tamil Tiger rebel fortifications and freed thousands of trapped civilians as the military prepares to end a 25-year insurgency.

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Sri Lanka's pro-government supporters protest outside the Norwegian embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa went on Sri Lanka's national television to say that soldiers helped more than 35,000 civilians leave the battle zone in what he called the "largest-ever hostage rescue mission in history".

Earlier the Sri Lankan government issued an ultimatum to the Tamil Tiger rebels, giving them 24 hours to surrender.

The military has designated the area a ‘no-fire’ zone to protect what the United Nations estimates are 100,000 civilians trapped there. Government forces have captured all the rebel strongholds in recent months and boxed the remaining guerrillas into the 20 square kilometre zone on the northern coast.

The government and aid groups have accused the rebels of holding civilians there as human shields.

Meanwhile at least 17 people have been killed and more than 200 wounded in a suicide bomb attack carried out by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the country's north east, which coincided with the Sri Lankan military's latest offensive.

Military officials said they estimated that ten of thousands of war refugees are still trapped in the Tamil Tiger-controlled region.

Police in Paris have arrested a number of pro-Tamil Tiger demonstrators, after a protest in the French capital turned violent on Monday. Thousands of pro-Tamil protestors also gathered outside parliament in London on Monday, demanding a ceasefire in Sri Lanka.

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