Sri Lanka to open safe passage for civilians

The Sri Lankan government appealed Friday for tens of thousands of civilians to flee the northern war zone and said it would open two safe passages in the area for the exodus. The civilians are trapped along with the Tamil Tiger rebels inside a shrinking strip of land along the northeast coast. Human Rights Watch said last week at least 2,000 civilians had been killed in recent weeks. International officials have issued increasing appeals to the military and the rebels to halt their battle temporarily to allow the civilians to escape, but the government has refused, saying it was on the verge of crushing the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and ending the quarter-century civil war. Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona said Friday that the government was calling on the trapped civilians to flee to government-controlled areas to the north and south along a coastal road.