The Tamil Tigers say that 250,000 civilians in the conflict zone in north-eastern Sri Lanka want to stay to be protected by the rebels. Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa had appealed to the rebels to allow the civilians to leave. But his government also ruled out a ceasefire. Rebel political chief B Nadesan said the people did not wish to end up in the hands of “their killers”. Health officials and rights groups say hundreds of civilians have died. Mr Nadesan denied the rebels were blocking civilians. He also said he was in daily contact with the Tigers’ Vellupillai Prabhakaran and that the rebels’ main leader was still full of enthusiasm.