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UN Decries Sri Lanka 'Bloodbath' - 106 Children Die

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Bianca
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« on: May 11, 2009, 08:29:40 am »









                                     UN decries Sri Lanka 'bloodbath' 106 children die
           





Ravi Nessman,
Associated Press Writer
May 11, 2009
COLOMBO,
Sri Lanka

The United Nations condemned a "bloodbath" in Sri Lanka's northern war zone Monday after two days of shelling that a government doctor said killed as many as 1,000 ethnic Tamil civilians including 106 children.

Volunteers dug mass graves in the marshland, putting 50 to 60 bodies in each pit, according to Dr. V. Shanmugarajah, who works at a makeshift hospital in the war zone. He said one nurse was killed along with his family in a trench that was then filled with soil and turned into their grave.

Shanmugarajah said the hospital was so short-staffed that many of those wounded in the first barrage late Saturday had still not been treated Monday morning. "The hospital death rate is increasing, but we are helpless," he said.

A rebel-linked Web site blamed the attacks on the government, while the government denied firing any artillery into the area.

"The U.N. has consistently warned against the bloodbath scenario as we've watched the steady increase in civilian deaths over the last few months," U.N. spokesman Gordon Weiss said Monday. "The large-scale killing of civilians over the weekend, including the deaths of more than 100 children, shows that that bloodbath has become a reality."

The first barrage struck the tiny sliver of northeast coast still held by the rebels Saturday evening and lasted through the night, health officials said.

Sunday evening, a new round of shelling less intense than the first pounded a newly demarcated "safe zone" where the government had urged civilians to gather, said Shanmugarajah.

A total of 393 people were either brought to the hospital for burial or died at the facility Sunday, while another 37 bodies were brought in Monday morning, he said. The dead included 106 children, he said. More than 1,300 wounded civilians came to the hospital as well.

However, the death toll was likely far higher, he said. Many of the dead were buried in the bunkers where they had taken refuge and then were killed, and many of the wounded never made it to the hospital for treatment.

"There were many who died without medical attention," Shanmugarajah said. "Seeing the number of wounded and from what the people tell me, I estimate the death toll to be around 1,000."

Reports of the fighting are difficult to verify because the government bars journalists and aid workers from the war zone. The attacks marked the bloodiest assault on ethnic Tamil civilians since the civil war flared again more than three years ago.

U.N. figures compiled last month showed that nearly 6,500 civilians had been killed in three months of fighting this year as the government drove the rebels out of their strongholds in the north and vowed to end the war.

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other rights groups called on Japan, the largest international donor to Sri Lanka, to press the U.N. Security Council to urgently address the civil war here.

"Formal meetings of the Security Council must be held urgently so that the council can take the necessary measures to address the humanitarian and human rights crisis," the groups said in a letter to Japan's prime minister.

The rebel-linked TamilNet Web site blamed the attack on Sri Lankan forces.

Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe denied the government was responsible for any artillery attacks and claimed health officials in the area were under pressure to lie from the rebels, formally known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

"We have consciously avoided firing into the areas where civilians are forcibly held by the LTTE," he said.

Rights groups have accused the government of bombing and shelling the war zone despite pledges to stop using heavy weapons. They also accuse the rebels of holding the civilians as human shields and shooting some who tried to flee.

About 50,000 civilians are crowded into a 2.4 mile- (4 kilometer) long strip of coast along with the separatists, who have been fighting for 25 years for a homeland for minority Tamils.

The government has brushed off international calls for a humanitarian truce, saying any pause in the fighting would give the rebels time to regroup.

___



Associated Press writers

Krishan Francis and
Bharatha Mallawarachi
contributed to this report
from Colombo.
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Bianca
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« Reply #1 on: May 11, 2009, 08:33:48 am »









                                           Hundreds killed in Sri Lanka "bloodbath"

         



 

Ranga Sirilal And
Shihar Aneez
May 11, 2009
COLOMBO
(Reuters)

-- The United Nations on Monday said attacks in Sri Lanka that killed hundreds were the bloodbath it had long feared, while the Tamil Tigers and government traded blame ahead of U.N. Security Council talks about the war.

In the latest and largest reported assault on civilians trapped in the war zone, hundreds of people were reported killed on Sunday and Monday in artillery barrages that struck the less than 5 sq km (2 sq mile) strip of territory the separatist rebels control.

The stakes could not be higher for either Sri Lanka, which does not want its impending conventional victory in the 25-year-war snatched away, or the Tigers, who have vowed no surrender despite facing overwhelming numbers, force and odds.

"We've been consistently warning against a bloodbath, and the large-scale killing of civilians including more than 100 children this weekend appears to show that the bloodbath has become a reality," U.N. spokesman Gordon Weiss said.

The United Nations warned in an internal briefing document in March that civilians could be killed either by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) trying to manufacture a slaughter to blame the government, or in an indiscriminate military advance.

The rebels blamed the government, which in turn said the LTTE had fired on the people it has been holding hostage for months in a last-minute move to secure international pressure for a truce to stave off defeat.

A doctor in the war zone, paid by the government but whose personal safety is at the whim of the Tigers, said at least 433 bodies had been brought to a makeshift hospital, and 1,347 people had been wounded in two days of shelling.

"Most of the dead bodies are in the road, houses and everywhere. In the shelling there should be more dead, around 1,000," said a man who identified himself as Thurairajah Varatharajan, the senior medical officer for the district.
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Bianca
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« Reply #2 on: May 11, 2009, 08:35:15 am »









NO INDEPENDENCE



Getting a clear picture of events in the war zone -- known as the Wanni -- is next to impossible, as it is generally closed to outsiders and those within it are not fully independent of pressure that is often applied at gunpoint.

"Nothing that comes out of the Wanni can be objective and independent. We know LTTE is in full control and these public servants are under pressure," Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe told reporters, referring to the doctors.

The pro-rebel web site www.TamilNet.com quoted a senior LTTE official as saying that 2,000 people had been killed, and denied the rebels were responsible.

"We call upon the international community and the U.N. Security Council 'as a matter of urgency' to take all measures capable of genuinely preventing any further massacres," TamilNet quoted LTTE diplomatic head Selvarajah Pathmanathan as saying.

Pathmanathan for years was the LTTE's chief weapons smuggler and is wanted by Interpol.

Diplomats said the U.N. Security Council was due to have another informal meeting over Sri Lanka on Monday with the foreign ministers of Britain and France, who had a stormy visit to Sri Lanka at the end of April, due to attend.

The council is split over whether to elevate discussion of Sri Lanka's war to a formal level where it could act. The United States and Britain are pushing a ceasefire, while Russia and China have backed Sri Lanka's opposition to a truce.

Sri Lankan Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa said the LTTE timed the attack to come just before the meeting, the daily newspaper the Island reported on Monday.

The LTTE has been fighting an all-out civil war since 1983 to create a separate state for minority Tamils in northern and eastern Sri Lanka.



(Writing by
Bryson Hull;

Editing by
Alex Richardson)
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