Thousands of civilians have fled their homes in eastern Sri Lanka because of heavy fighting between government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels. A BBC correspondent in Batticaloa says that 3,000 mostly Tamil civilians arrived in the town on Thursday. Most came from the Paduvankarai area east of Batticaloa town, and said they were escaping heavy artillery fire. The civilians said they believed troops were massing for a major offensive. The government denies the reports.

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