UN says civilians being killed in Sri Lanka

Place: Jaffna | Courtesy: Indian Express
| Date: 20000529

UN workers have come across hundreds of families carrying their wounded out of the northern war zone, where they say civilians are being killed, the UN High Commissiner for Refugees said today.

In a statement issued here, the UNHCR said its field staff members were coming across hundreds of families fleeing the war theater with their wounded.

''In interview with UNCHR staff members, these persons indicated they were fleeing hostilities. There were injured among them,'' the statement said. ''They stated that there were civilians who were killed and injured during military actions over the past two weeks.''

Separatist rebels from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam are fighting government troops in the north to carve out an independent homeland for Sri Lanka's 3.2 million minority Tamils. They say they face discrimination by the Sinhalese, who make up 14 million of Sri Lanka's 18.6 million people. Following recent reports, the UNHCR appealed ''again to the government and the LTTE to ensure security for civilians and their freedom to move to safety,'' it said. In response, Defence Ministry spokesman Palitha Fernando said,''You cannot blame us all the time for deaths of civilians. The terrorists all the time are using artillery and some of the them are falling on civilian areas.''

He said the ministry was doing all it could to ensure the safety of 500,000 civilians trapped in the northern Jaffna peninsula, but did not elaborate. No comment was immediately available from the rebels.