Sri Lankan army 'shells hospital'

Unconfirmed reports accuse military of killing 64 civilians in northern conflict zone.

    Pictures of the hospital were posted on TamilNet, a pro-Tamil website

    "Today, two times shells fell in the hospital area totalling 60 to 70 persons dead, 87 persons got injury."

    Satellite images

    "Most of these people already had injuries and were staying in the hospital."

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    Varatharajah said that people were still arriving for treatment, but that supplies were low and some staff had left, making providing medical care difficult.

    Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara, a military spokesman, denied there had been any such attack.

    On Friday, the UN released satellite imagery purportedly showing security forces shelling a civilian area.

    The images showed craters which were formed inside the war zone between February 15 and April 19, the day before the army breached the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) defences and civilians started to pour out.

    "The imagery is fairly clear and shows the time, so anybody can study and compare them," Einer Bjorge, head of the mapping unit at Unosat (the United Nations Operational Satellite Applications Programme), told Al Jazeera.

    He said the pattern of the craters would have required air power.

    'No viability'

    The allegations were denied by the defence ministry who said that they had "no scientific viability".

    Sri Lanka's president also said that no heavy weapons were being used against the LTTE.

    "If you are not willing to accept the fact that we are not using heavy weapons, I really can't help it," Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Sri Lankan president, said.

    "We are not using heavy weapons. When we say no, it means no. If we say we are doing something, we do it. We do exactly what we say, without confusion," he said.

    Rajapaksa said that the military is doing all it can to prevent civilian casualties.

    The government said on Saturday that they had killed 14 LTTE fighters in the latest battles.

    The military also released video footage of navy patrol boats attacking what it said were LTTE vessels.

    Amnesty call

    The Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), a pro-government party, called for Rajapakse to name an international agency to which LTTE fighters can hand over their weapons in exchange for an amnesty.

    Some sources say the hospital was shelled on both Friday and Saturday [TamilNet]
    The idea was proposed as a way to safeguard bystanders in the conflict area.

    Up to 50,000 civilians are believed to be trapped in the 5km-long coastal war zone, according to the UN, although the government says the figure is about 20,000.

    International pressure on the government has grown recently to enforce a ceasefire to ensure the safety of the civilians trapped in the region.

    Both the French and British foreign ministers asserted the need for a truce on Wednesday.

    The LTTE have been fighting a 23-year secessionist war against the government for a homeland in the northeast for the ethnic-minority Tamils.

    It is impossible to independently verify reports from the army or LTTE due to journalists and international organisations being barred from the conflict zone.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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