Home » News

Official: 300 wounded in Sri Lanka artillery fire

[AP, Tuesday, 27 January 2009 08:00 No Comment]

At least 300 civilians were wounded and scores feared killed by government artillery shells fired into a designated "safe zone" for ethnic Tamils trapped by fighting between the government and Tamil rebels, a health official alleged Tuesday.


A Web site favoring the Tamil Tiger rebels, TamilNet, meanwhile reported that government artillery fire killed more than 300 civilians in the safe zone in northern Sri Lanka through Monday.


Military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara denied that soldiers fired shells into the safe zone, and said they had not targeted civilians during any of the fighting in northern Sri Lanka. He said any civilian casualties would have been rebels in civilian clothing, or civilians pressed into service by the insurgents to build fortifications.


The health official, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals from the government, said that it remained difficult to obtain a full account of the casualty toll in the 13.5-square-mile (35-square-kilometer) safe zone near Mullaittivu.


He said relatives have brought some 300 people wounded by the government artillery fire to Puthukudiyiruppu hospital, some 10 miles (16 kilometers) west of Mullaittivu, but that the dead have been buried immediately or abandoned by roadsides as the families flee attacks.


Neither the TamilNet report nor the health official’s account could immediately be confirmed. Journalists are barred from the war zone.


Human rights groups and diplomats have expressed concerns about the safety of an estimated 150,000 to 400,000 civilians in the territory remaining under rebel control — an area of about 115 square miles (300 square kilometers). The government says the number is far lower.


The government unilaterally declared the "safe zone" in a small section of the rebel-held territory last week and called on all the civilians to move into that area, where they would be protected. But there have been several reports of artillery fire in that area.


The U.N. resident coordinator Neil Buhne told The Associated Press on Monday that there was a "high intensity of fighting" in that region, including in the safe zone.

[Full Coverage]

(For updates you can share with your friends, follow TNN on Facebook, Twitter and Google+)

Comments are closed.