Hundreds of civilians being killed in Sri Lanka 'no fire' zone

By staff writers
April 20, 2009

Hundreds of civilians are being killed and seriously injured in artillery and gun attacks as the Sri Lankan Army attempts to eliminate the remaining rebels of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who are trapped in a shrinking 'no fire' enclave, say the latest reports.

The supposed 'no-fire zone' is a 20 square kilometer strip of coast where the Tamil Tigers are penned in with their backs to the sea.

"Horrific stories of limbs ripped off by shellfire and bodies buried where they fell are emerging, despite the government's efforts to hide the scale of the killing by confining the injured to hospitals in a military area around the zone," says one report from New Zealand. The media are excluded from the military area.

A doctor handling the casualties says shells are falling among the tightly packed tents and shelters housing tens of thousands of civilians, killing and wounding dozens every day.

"Most of the people have shell blast injuries and gunshot injuries. Some people have lost their limbs, other people have lost other parts of the body, some people have wounds in the abdomen, some in the chest," said Dr Gnana Gunalan, chair of the Sri Lankan Red Cross. "All these people are very badly traumatised. Some have lost all their loved ones and come here alone."

The doctor said the accounts of the evacuees appeared to support previous claims from doctors in the no-fire zone that the shelling had not come from Tamil Tiger positions in the zone.

The Sri Lankan government has vehemently denied firing into the zone.

The UN and humanitarian agencies have warned of an escalating crisis and killing fields, in a war situation often ignored or reported in passing by major media outlets.

Tamil protesters have taken to the streets of cities across Europe, including London, in attempts to get national governments to put pressure on the Sri Lankan authorities to end the killing.

The British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has meanwhile sent a special envoy to the United Nations in New York for "urgent" talks on the war in Sri Lanka.

The Special Representative, MP Des Browne, will try to secure a ceasefire between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels fighting in the north.

David Miliband, the UK Foreign Secretary, said he was "gravely concerned" that 100,000 civilians remained trapped in the area.

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