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Civilians Killed By Sri Lanka Army Shelling – Rights Group

[AFP, Tuesday, 24 March 2009 08:24 No Comment]

An international rights group said Tuesday that indiscriminate army shelling is killing dozens of civilians every day in a no- fire zone in northern Sri Lanka, where Tamil Tiger rebels are staging an apparent last stand.


"We receive reports of civilians being killed and wounded daily in the no-fire zone, while the Sri Lankan government continues to deny the attacks," said Brad Adams, Asia director at New York-based Human Rights Watch.


The Tamil Tigers’ alleged use of civilians as human shields "adds to the bloodshed," Adams said.

A doctor at a hospital in Putumattalan, inside the government-declared no-fire zone, told Human Rights Watch by telephone that dozens of dead and wounded civilians were being brought to the hospital daily.

Human Rights Watch said as many as 150,000 ethnic Tamil civilians remained trapped in the narrow stretch of coastal territory where the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE, have been cornered by a massive military offensive.


According to the U.N., more than 2,800 civilians might have been killed and more than 7,240 wounded in the fighting since Jan. 20.


U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay recently warned that both sides in the conflict could be guilty of war crimes, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse to halt army shelling.


Colombo has denied any targeting of civilians, and dismissed the reports of noncombatant deaths as exaggerated.


"The Sri Lankan government has responded to broad international concerns with indignation and denials instead of action to address the humanitarian crisis," Adams said.


The rights group also called on the LTTE to let civilians leave the conflict zone. The rebels have been accused of shooting those who try to escape.

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