UN evacuates over 200 civilians from Sri Lanka’s war zone

January 29th, 2009 - 4:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Jan 29 (IANS) The UN Thursday evacuated over 200 critically wounded civilians, including children, from LTTE-held areas in northeastern Mullaitivu district, where the advancing government troops and the Tamil Tigers were fighting a bitter battle, a spokesman here said.”A large number of wounded civilians from the LTTE-held areas in Puthukkudiyiruppu today (Thursday) crossed the frontlines. We don’t have exact headcount, but it is easily over 200 civilians; amongst them were 50 critically injured children,” UN spokesman Gordon Weiss told IANS Thursday.

He said that both the LTTE and the government troops had ‘halted’ the fierce fighting in these areas for a few hours to facilitate the evacuation process.

Weiss said that the UN had been seeking permission from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to evacuate these critically wounded civilians, using a convoy of ambulances, trapped in Puthukkudiyiruppu since Monday, “but got the necessary green light only today (Thursday)”.

“The convoy has already crossed the Puthukkudiyiruppu front defence lines and is on its way to the northern Vavuniya town,” he said.

“We got the full support from the government in this regard and obviously the fighting stopped for about couple of hours to facilitate the crossing of the convoy via the front line,” Weiss said, adding that two foreign UN staff members also crossed the front lines with the convoy.

Puthukkudiyiruppu is one of the few villages in the Mullaitivu district still in control of the LTTE.

Carrying out a fight-to-finish campaign against the LTTE, the Sri Lankan army said last week that 95 percent of the war against the LTTE was over and the rebels were now confined to a 300 square km area in Mullaitivu district where they were “holding thousands of civilians as human shields”.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Tuesday said that a major humanitarian crisis was unfolding, with 250,000 people trapped and hundreds reported killed and wounded in the fierce fighting.

Several countries including the US have expressed their concern and urged the warring parties in the island nation to respect the international humanitarian laws and ensure the safety and security of the civilians trapped in the war zone.

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