UN concerned over civilians trapped in Sri Lanka war (Lead)

April 7th, 2009 - 9:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, April 7 (IANS) The United Nations Tuesday expressed “deep concern” for over 100,000 Tamil civilians trapped in a small strip in Sri Lanka’s north and said that “a series of humanitarian pauses must be initiated immediately to allow civilians to leave” the war-zone.
The representative of the UN Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, Walter Kalin, appealed for saving the lives of the civilians trapped in the 14 sq km area of no-fire zone in Sri Lanka’s Mullaitivu district.

“Large numbers of civilians already have been killed or wounded. Following reports that (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) LTTE fighters now have been pushed almost entirely into this zone, many more are at risk of losing their lives,” Kalin said in a statement at the end of a four-day fact finding visit.

“I urgently repeat my call to the LTTE to allow all civilians under its control to leave this zone and to seek safety elsewhere. I also call on the Government of Sri Lanka to scrupulously respect the no-fire zone for as long as a civilian population remains within it,” he said.

“I believe that a series of humanitarian pauses must be initiated immediately to allow civilians to leave and humanitarian actors to provide life-saving relief to the remaining population,” the UN top envoy said.

The UN concern comes a couple of days after the government troops seized control of Puthukkudiyiruppu, the last bastion of the Tamil Tigers, killing over 500 rebels after three days of fierce gun-battles.

Kalin during his stay in Sri Lanka met with top government officials, ministers, military commanders and heads of UN agencies and discussed the situation in the island’s north.

He also visited the welfare centres in the northern Vavuniya district, where over 60,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) who have entered the government-held areas since the beginning of 2009 are housed.

Meanwhile, speaking in parliament Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama Tuesday assured the international community that “no one is more concerned than the government about the civilians trapped and used as human shields, in the safe zone”.

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