Sri Lanka on Friday disputed the claim of international aid agencies that 2.5 lakh Tamil civilians were caught in the fighting between the security forces and LTTE in the island's north, saying the figure was the result of "many duplications" while the actual number could be nearly half of what was being projected.
"We have estimated the number of civilians in the region. But there are many duplications and it is not 2.5 lakh people in Wanni," Minister for Disaster Management and Human Rights, Mahinda Samarasinghe, told reporters amid international aid agencies' assertion about presence of 2.5 lakh civilians in the region.
The minister said that as per government agents in Mullaittivu and other areas there are cases of duplication and that up to one third of the figures could have been duplicated.
"We are not sure about the number of civilians but the figure is more around 1.2 lakh (civilians in the LTTE areas) though that is not certain," the minister said in reply to a question.
Samarasinghe said that during a meeting with diplomats chaired by President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Friday morning, the issue of the number of people in Wanni also came up for discussions.
At the meeting, which included representatives from one of the largest donors of the country Japan besides senior diplomats from other nation, the view points of the government agents in the embattled northern region was put forth.