Place: Jaffna | Courtesy: LTTE
| Date: 20000405

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) denounces the inhuman and cowardly tactics employed by the Sri Lankan army of holding thousands of Tamil civilian refugees as human shields in the battle zones of the southern sector of the Jaffna peninsula.

Nearly five thousand Tamil civilians are trapped in the militarily occupied zones and have been prevented by the Sri Lankan army from moving to areas of safety and security. More than a thousand refugees who fled from areas of conflict in Pallai and Pachilaippali have been blocked at Kilali since Sunday and forced to live in a school and in a church closer to the army’s defence positions. In order to move the civilian population to safer areas, the LTTE suspended operations for several hours last Sunday and indicated a safe passage through Killali. The army blocked and turned away the mass exodus while holding a section of the displaced as a civilian protective shield in the vicinity of the concentration of troops.

The LTTE also wishes to register strong condemnation for indiscriminate aerial bombardment, naval shelling and artillery barrages in the civilian settlements of southern Jaffna by the Sri Lankan airforce, navy and the army which have caused death and injuries to innocent civilians. By such callous and irresponsible acts the Sri Lankan military establishment has violated the fundamental norms of the Geneva Conventions concerning the safety of civilians.

We regret to note that the ICRC and the UNHCR delegations who operate in the Jaffna Peninsula with the mandate to protect and promote the interests of civilians and refugees from ravages of war have failed to secure the safety of the civilian refugees whose lives are danger in the forced captivity of the army. Furthermore these organisations are reluctant to bring this matter to the notice of the international community.

(Released by the International Secretariat of LTTE, 211 Katherine Rd, London E6 1BU, United Kingdom. Tel : 44 20 8503 4294)

Concerns raised over trapped S.Lanka civilians

COLOMBO, April 5 (Reuters) - A Tamil political group in Sri Lanka on Wednesday urged the international community to pressure the government to allow civilians trapped by fierce fighting in northern Jaffna peninsula to leave for safer areas. ``More than 5,000 Tamil civilians, including children, continue to remain trapped in Palai and Kilali the midst of the on-going military confrontation...,'' the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO) said in a statement.

``These innocent civilians are still being prevented by the armed forces from leaving the theatre of war inspite of their frantic and fervent appeal to do so,'' the statement added.

TELO is a former militant group turned mainstream political party that has a parliamentary presence.

The defence ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that fighting was continuing in Jaffna, with the two sides exchanging artillery fire.

Battles the previous day had resulted in the deaths of at least 16 Tamil Tiger rebels, while 21 soldiers had been wounded, it added.

Sri Lanka's Jaffna peninsula has seen several days of bloody battles as rebels try to win back their former stronghold, which they lost in 1996.

Hundreds of rebels and soldiers have been killed or wounded in the fighting, which erupted last week when the LTTE mounted a push towards the strategic military complex at Elephant Pass, an isthumus gateway to the peninsula.

International aid officials said on Wednesday they had no access to civilians in the area, who they feared were facing shortages of food and medicine.

``We have no access to the areas, but we are insisting that the people be allowed to move,'' said one aid official, who declined to be identified.

He said some 1,800 people had managed to escape the fighting and were being provided for by the government in Jaffna town, Point Pedro and Chavakachcheri on the peninsula.

But he added there were still some 400 families stuck in the Kilali area and another 900 families in Palai.

The rebels have said they are committed to winning back Jaffna, which analysts say would help the LTTE negotiate from a position of strength if and when peace talks with the government began.

The government is discussing a new constitution with the main opposition United National Party that aims to devolve more powers to regional councils, including one that would be administered by Tamils.

Nearly 60,00 people have been killed in the ethnic war since 1983. Norway has proposed to bring the two warring sides together for negotiations.