UN chief "extremely concerned" over situation in Sri Lanka

Other News Materials 6 March 2009 11:20 (UTC +04:00)

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon voiced concern over the increasing number of civilian victims in the fighting between government troops and Tamil separatist rebels in north-eastern Sri Lanka, reported dpa.

"The secretary general is extremely concerned over the deteriorating situation for civilians trapped in northern Sri Lanka," a statement released by Ban's office said Thursday.

Ban called for a speedy end to the conflict "without further loss of civilian life" and urged both the Sri Lankan government and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to suspend hostilities to allow civilians to leave the conflict zone and allow access for aid organizations.

Furthermore, the LTTE must immediately cease the recruitment of children, Ban said, while urging the government to solve the problems underlying the conflict.

According to a confidential report by the European Union, which refers to UN figures, at least 1,000 civilians were killed in north-eastern Sri Lanka from January 20 to February 5.

Another 3,000 civilians were injured, said the report, which was obtained by Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

The Sri Lankan government does not provide statistics on civilian casualties in the conflict.

The remaining LTTE fighters are surrounded in a 55-square-kilometre area on Sri Lanka's north-eastern coast, the Defence Ministry said.

Aid organizations said they believe about 150,000 civilians are trapped in the conflict zone while the government speaks of less than half that number.

Sri Lanka's authorities have not allowed humanitarian aid to enter the region since late January and were accused by the LTTE of shelling the region indiscriminately and endangering civilians.

The government accuses the rebels of refusing to allow civilians to leave LTTE-controlled areas and using them as human shields.