Voicing concern over reports of heavy casualties among civilians trapped in the conflict zone in Sri Lanka's embattled north, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has appealed to both the government troops and the Tamil Tigers to protect the innocent people."The Secretary-General is deeply distressed by continuing reports from the Vanni region of Sri Lanka that civilians are at extreme risk, with heavy casualties, and that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are keeping civilians in a very small area of active conflict against their will," Ban's spokesperson said in a statement.
The Secretary General also expressed concern over restriction on movement of civilians and forced recruitment, especially of children.The UN estimates that 150,000 to 190,000 civilians are trapped in the nearly 58 square-kilometre conflict zone. While some civilians have been able to leave or escape, the world body says reliable reports indicate that the LTTE has prevented others from leaving, including by firing at them.
"The Secretary General calls upon the LTTE leadership to allow civilians to leave the conflict area of their own free will. The severe restrictions of the LTTE on their freedom of movement violate international law," the spokesperson said, adding that Ban also deplores the forced recruitment of civilians, particularly children.