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Sri Lankan official says army shelled hospital

[AP, Sunday, 1 February 2009 19:35 One Comment]

A hospital in the area where Sri Lankan government and rebel forces are fighting was hit by a series of artillery shells late Sunday which killed five patients, the top health official in the region said.


Dr. Thurairajah Varatharajah said the shells appeared to have been fired by the Sri Lankan army and caused extensive damage to the Puthukkudiyiruppu hospital, one of the last functioning health institutions inside rebel territory in the north.


The Red Cross said another artillery attack earlier Sunday also hit the hospital, killing two people. It did not say which side fired the artillery in that attack.


Military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara did not answer calls seeking comment. The military has repeatedly denied killing civilians in their offensive to wipe out the Tamil Tiger rebels and end the island nation’s 25-year-old civil war.


Independent reports from the war zone are not available because journalists are barred from the area.


The attack on the hospital came amid reports of growing casualties among ethnic Tamil civilians trapped with the rebels inside a tiny patch of jungle and small villages. The Red Cross estimates 250,000 are in the area, while the government says it is less.


Speaking by telephone from the hospital in Puthukkudiyiruppu, Varatharajah said the facility was hit by five artillery shells after 10 p.m. Sunday. Most of the shells landed in the women’s ward, he said.


"There are five dead and a lot of casualties," he said.


Hospital workers were having trouble counting the injured because many staff members were too scared to leave their fortified bunkers and the hospital was suffering power cuts, he said.


The Red Cross, which has offices in the hospital, said the earlier attack on the facility killed at least two people and injured at least five others. Varatharajah said only one person was killed in that attack.


"We’re shocked that the hospital was hit, and this for the second time in recent weeks," said Paul Castella, head of the Colombo delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross. "Wounded and sick people, medical personnel and medical facilities are all protected by international humanitarian law. Under no circumstance may they be directly attacked."


Both the rebels and the army know the location of the hospital, Varatharajah said.


The attack took place on a day of heavy fighting in the area that began about 5 a.m., Varatharajah said.


"There’s heavy shelling where there are civilians," he said. "They (the shells) are coming from the army side."


Well over 100 injured people came to the hospital during the day, he said.

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One Comment »

  • roshanth babu said:

    Srilankan government has banned all media access to the war zone in the name of security and even kill and threaten the journalist in the capital if they report facts about the war and displaced people. They have kicked out all the NGO’s as well except Red Cross, and even UN had to move out. This is a systematic black out of news and NOW the Srilankan army can do any thing to this trapped Tamils estimated to be 250,000 in the name of fighting LTTE. These people are suspected LTTE supporters, even if they go to Government controlled areas they will be detained and there is no access to Media or Human right organisations. Already there are reports few hundred of people who have gone to the government control area has been taken away and killed. This leaves the trapped 250,000 people with no alternative, but to die with LTTE?

    Please help and give more prominent coverage to this conflict, just report the facts. Then only there is some hope for this people, otherwise there is going to be an untold genocide. Only their crime is that they lived in the rebel controlled areas. Is it their fault or is it beyond their control?