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'165,000 civilians in Wanni close to starvation'

world Updated: Apr 25, 2009 14:54 IST

On the verge of total defeat, Tamil Tigers on Saturday said that nearly 165,000 civilians in the areas controlled by it were close to starvation and accused Sri Lankan authorities of blocking food and humanitarian supplies to the area.

Comparing the humanitarian crisis in the 10 sq km squathe of coastal land in Pudukudiyyiruppu to Dafur in Sudan, the LTTE in a statement asked the United Nations and other international aid groups to intervene promptly to prevent a catastrophe.

"We fear that further delay can result in a crisis similar to that faced in Darfur or even deadlier," it said in the statement, released by the pro-LTTE website TamilNet.Com.

Welcoming the dispatch of UN Humanitarian chief John Holmes to Colombo, the rebels said they were "prepared to engage in a constructive dialogue to address the humanitarian crisis in Wanni."

The figures given by the LTTE were the first about the numbers of Tamil civilians still trapped in the areas controlled by it, while Colombo citing surrendered Tiger leaders had put the figure between 10,000 to 15,000.

However, the United Nations has estimated that the number of civilians in the conflict zone as 50,000.

The LTTE said in the last few months, the Sri Lankan regime has blocked the food supplies through land and sea.

"The supply routes have been deliberately targeted by artillery and mortars. The occupation of Pudhukudiyyiruppu and surrounded areas has made impossible food supplies by land. Delivery by sea us the only option for supplies to the people living in LTTE controlled areas," it said.

Terming the blockade as "systematic and deliberate", the LTTE said denial of food, medicine and other medical supplies was a "serious breach" of the international humanitarian laws and a war crime that falls within the international crime of genocide.

The Tigers statement came Holmes is due in Colombo later today as international concern over the plight of trapped Tamils prompted the White House to call for an immediate ceasefire.