UN demands halt to civilian casualties in Sri Lanka

May 12th, 2009 - 1:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, May 12 (DPA) UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called on the Sri Lankan government and Tamil rebels to avoid further civilian casualties in the conflict in the north of the country.
“The secretary-general is appalled at the killing of hundreds of civilians in Sri Lanka over the weekend,” a statement said.

The statement came after an estimated 400 civilians were killed in north-eastern Sri Lanka during fierce fighting between government forces and rebels.

The military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have traded allegations as to who was responsible for the killing of the civilians.

“The secretary-general urges the government of Sri Lanka to explore all possible options to bring the conflict to an end without further bloodshed and to make public the terms under which that can be achieved without further loss of civilian life, and for the LTTE to give sober and positive consideration of those terms,” the statement said.

Earlier the Sri Lankan government said it would not use heavy weapons in the operation which they say is aimed at rescuing some 20,000 civilians trapped in the area.

UN agencies say the number civilians in a narrow strip along the coastal area of Mullaitivu, 395 km north-east of capital, is around 50,000.

The UN statement said the secretary-general has repeatedly called on both sides to stop using heavy calibre weapons in areas with high civilian concentrations.

Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross had not yet moved in to remove the injured civilians in the area. Doctors in the conflict zone say they lack medicine to treat the injured.

The number of wounded was estimated at more than 1,200 since the incident Sunday.

Government troops say they are in the final phase of ending a major military operation aimed at crushing the rebels as well as rescuing civilians from the control of the Tamil Tigers.

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