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Sri Lankans Face ‘Catastrophe’, Red Cross Says Aid Not Getting Through

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15 May 09 | AJE

Fierce fighting has made it impossible to deliver aid and evacuate the injured among civilians trapped between warring government forces and Tamil separatist fighters in Sri Lanka, Bernard Barrett, a spokesman for the Red Cross, tells Al Jazeera. (2:59):

Civilians ‘flee’

At least 2,700 civilians waded across a lagoon on Thursday while under fire from fighters from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), according to the military.

Four civilians were killed and 14 hurt as they attempted to cross the lagoon, which is currently a barrier between army forces and the LTTE, the military said.

At least another 1,000 were waiting to cross as night fell, although darkness had made it difficult to tell, said Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara, a spokesman for the military.

It is impossible to verify the military’s claims as it has blocked independent access to the conflict zone.

The LTTE has denied accusations by the military that civilians inside the war zone are being held as human shields and that they have opened fire on those trying to flee.

U.S. presses IMF

Also on Thursday, Hillary Clinton, the U.S. secretary of state, said the International Monetary Fund should reconsider a $1.9bn loan for Sri Lanka.

“We think it is not an appropriate time to consider that until there is a resolution of this conflict and that is what we are focused on,” Clinton said in Washington.

Clinton’s comments came a day after her president, Barack Obama, called on Sri Lanka’s government to end “indiscriminate shelling” of civilian areas and for the Tamil Tigers to release civilians he said the group was holding in the area.

The Sri Lankan government has rejected calls for a ceasefire and the Tamil Tigers have refused to lay down their arms, despite being believed to be close to defeat in its 26-year battle for a separate Tamil homeland.

The U.N. estimates that about 50,000 civilians remain trapped in the narrow strip of land still held by Tamil Tiger forces.

Nearly 200,000 civilians have escaped the war zone in recent months and are being held in overwhelmed displacement camps.

Hundreds of civilians have been killed in the war zone in the past several days alone.

The Wire’s coverage of the Sri Lanka Civil War. >>>

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Written by Editors

14 May 2009 at 11:57 pm

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