UN calls Sri Lanka fighting ‘bloodbath’ for civilians

May 11th, 2009 - 4:32 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, May 11 (DPA) The UN Monday described heavy shelling in northeastern Sri Lanka as a “bloodbath” after over 400 people were killed and more than 1,200 injured in fighting between the government and Tamil rebels.
The government and Tamil rebels accused each other of causing civilian casualties over the weekend in a narrow land strip near the coast of the Mullaitivu district, 395 km northeast of the capital.

“We can call it a bloodbath,” UN spokesperson in Colombo Gordon Weiss told DPA.

He explained that though he no had confirmation of who was responsible for the killings, both parties were responsible for the wellbeing of civilians caught in the conflict.

Defence spokesperson Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said the rebels were firing at the civilians and trying to tarnish the image of the government.

A government statement issued Monday saying the Tamil rebels had opened fire on fleeing civilians towards the military controlled areas.

On Sunday as many as 1,500 civilians had escaped from the zone.

The statement said intercepts of guerrilla communication showed the rebels had fired mortars into populated areas, killing or injuring as many as 250 civilians.

“It is believed that scores of civilians were killed while many others sustained injuries due to the deliberate attack launched by the terrorists to gain media mileage against government forces,” the ministry said.

But Veerachchami Shanmuagaraja, a doctor, told DPA over telephone from the conflict zone that at least 400 people were killed and more than 1,200 injured in the incidents.

He said more wounded were being brought to a makeshift hospital set up in the Mullivaikal junior school.

The doctor said women and children were among the casualties, and that he was unable to provide proper treatment for lack of medicines and other supplies.

“The fighting ceased in the morning hours on Monday and people are moving away further towards the beach,” the doctor said.

The government statement said the doctor was not in a position to give an independent account because he was virtually another captive of the rebels.

A statement by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) claimed that more than 2,000 civilians were killed due to shelling by the army Sunday in an area demarcated as a “safety zone” for civilians by the government. The rebels say the zone is not free of fighting.

It was not possible to independently confirm the claims made by the government or the LTTE, as journalists are denied access to the combat zone.

An estimated 20,000 civilians are trapped in the last rebel-held area which extends to about six square kilometers according to the government, but UN agencies estimate that there are around 50,000 civilians.

The military says it is in the final phase of a major operation to crush the Tamil rebels, who have been fighting for an independent homeland for minority Tamils in the north and eastern parts of the country for the last 25 years.

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