New Sri Lanka heavy weapons row

By Charles Haviland BBC News, Colombo

Tamil Tiger rebels in the northern Sri Lankan war zone have accused government troops of intensifying heavy weapons attacks, killing dozens every day.

The government dismissed the allegations as propaganda, saying the rebels were lying to gain international sympathy.

Reports from the north-eastern battle cannot be independently verified.

Separately, the government has invited the UN secretary-general to visit camps for displaced people.

Red Cross

The Tamil Tigers allege that the armed forces are using artillery, mortar and aerial attacks on the war zone, where the UN believes some 50,000 civilians are trapped.

The rebels say between 50 and 100 people are being killed every day and that injured civilians admitted to hospital are dying because of a lack of medical attention.

They also say nine people have died of starvation because of food shortages.

But Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said the rebels were “concocting” accounts to gain international sympathy.

He said Sri Lanka was sticking by its undertaking not to use any heavy weapons in the zone and so there was no possibility of civilians being hurt by the military.

The minister said the Tamil Tigers were forcibly holding civilians and should let them go.

The government’s invitation to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to visit the camps came after Mr Ban said in New York that the government should, as he put it, stop using heavy weapons in areas heavily populated by civilians.

The authorities have also denied a Tamil Tiger accusation that since last Thursday they have blocked ships of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) from bringing in food.

The ICRC told the BBC its last food delivery was eight days ago and its last evacuation of wounded people was six days ago.

It said both sides had given security assurances and that the deliveries and evacuations would continue shortly.





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