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The fragile peace agreement of 2002 broke down completely in 2006. There was a steady escalation of violence and, in September 2008, the government expelled all aid agencies and foreign journalists from northern Sri Lanka. Full scale warfare then erupted.
During the final stages of the war – January to May 2009 – an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 civilians were killed and some 300,000 were herded into ever-shrinking battlegrounds. Both parties showed disregard for those trapped between the warring factions and while the army shelled no-fire zones and barred access to aid organisations and media agencies, the LTTE prevented civilians from fleeing the war-zone using them instead as human shields and bargaining chips.
Despite calls for a truce by the UN, various world leaders and the LTTE, the army finished its brutal onslaught and declared victory on 19 May 2009, having killed the LTTE leader. The UN has accused both sides of war crimes.