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UN evacuating displaced Tamil civilians

The situation of the thousands of displaced Tamil civilians in the northeastern battle fronts continued to be grim on with the United Nations and the Red Cross evacuating hundreds of critically wounded civilians, reports Sutirtho Patranobis.

world Updated: Jan 29, 2009 19:24 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

The situation of the thousands of displaced Tamil civilians in the northeastern battle fronts continued to be grim on Thursday with the United Nations and the Red Cross evacuating hundreds of critically wounded civilians.

The UN evacuated over 200 critically wounded civilians, including children, from LTTE-held areas in northeastern Mullaitivu district, where the advancing government troops and the Tamil Tigers were fighting a bitter battle, a spokesman here said.

``A large number of wounded civilians from the LTTE-held areas in Puthukkudiyiruppu today (Thursday) crossed the frontlines. We don't have exact headcount, but it is easily over 200 civilians; amongst them were 50 critically injured children,'' UN spokesman Gordon Weiss told.

He said that both the LTTE and the government troops had ``halted'' the fierce fighting in these areas for a few hours to facilitate the evacuation process.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Thursdaytoday escorted 226 sick and wounded patients requiring urgent medical treatment to the Vavuniya Hospital in the government controlled area.

Later, the organisation also escorted into the Vanni a convoy of 13 GA trucks bringing about 170 metric tons of food provided by the WFP.

``The wounded and sick had to wait for days before being transferred safely and it had become critical for these persons to be treated immediately,'' said Paul Castella, the head of delegation of the ICRC in Colombo.

The patients accompanied by family members travelled in three ambulances and four buses. The convoy was escorted by the ICRC over a stretch of 4km between the LTTE and the government controlled areas.

``Despite this positive development, the overall humanitarian situation remains precarious for thousands. Stocks have been depleted and sustainable ways of producing food locally have become almost non-existent it is therefore vitally important and urgent that parties to the conflict continue to allow humanitarian organisations to bring food into the Vanni immediately,'' the ICRC said.

Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan military has said that 13,000 Tamil Tiger rebels and 3,700 soldiers have been killed since the armed conflict between the two sides began to escalate in July 2006.

``In the last two months alone, 1,500 Tamil Tiger rebels and 150 soldiers were killed," military spokesperson, Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara, said.

In another development, a senior leader of the Tamil Tigers has been seriously injured in an attack by advancing government troops, a pro-rebel website said Thursday.

``A senior leader and special member of the LTTE K.V. Balakumaran was seriously injured during an attack by the Sri Lankan army at Udaiyarkattu area in Mullaitivu Monday and is admitted to the intensive care unit,'' pro-LTTE puthinam website report said.

The military is yet to comment on the report.

News agency IANS said: ``Balakumaran is the second seniormost leader of the LTTE to be wounded after the beginning of the current phase of fierce clashes between the government troops and the LTTE since August 2006. ''

In November 2007, LTTE's former political wing leader S.P. Thamilselvan was killed in an air raid by the Sri Lankan air force jets in Kilinochchi.