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Video shows LTTE shooting at civilians

Agencies
Apr 25, 2009 at 06:30pm IST

New Delhi: The UN calls the situation for some 50,000 civilians trapped in Sri Lanka's war zone "very dire”. The warning and the tragedy of the civilians have now been revealed in a video, which shows Tamil rebels allegedly firing at hundreds of refugees inside the no-war zone.

The video, prepared by the Sri Lankan Airforce, shows thousands of Tamils gathered at a border after streaming out of the war zone. It shows three fighters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) firing at the crowd. The video also shows an LTTE tank firing at the Sri Lankan army, using civilians as human shield. The tank is stationed behind temporary shelters built by Tamil civilians, so that the Army cannot retaliate.

Humanitarian agencies estimate 20,000 people are still inside the no-fire-zone, which is just a to 5-km strip of land. Top LTTE leaders, including rebel chief Velupillai Prabhakaran, are supposed to be inside this small strip of land hiding amongst the trapped civilians.

Prabhakaran and his aides escaped capture “by a whisker”, a senior Sri Lankan commander said on Saturday. "We got to know that Prabhakaran had moved through the Pudukudiryirippu-Iranmalai road on a day between March 29-31, just about two days before the army fully laid seige to that area," GoC 58 Division Brig Shavendra Silva said.

"Yes I regret we missed him by a whisker or else things could have been over faster," he said.

UN’s appeal

The UN's top humanitarian official said on Saturday that the situation for some 50,000 civilians trapped in Sri Lanka's war zone is now "very dire," and a pause in the fighting between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels is desperately needed to get them out of danger.

Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes, who was en route to the troubled island nation for a three-day emergency mission, said in Bangkok that he hopes to persuade the government to allow a humanitarian team into the conflict zone to assess the situation and the needs of trapped civilians.

Reports of chaos in the northern war zone have increased in recent days as the Sri Lankan military pushes forward with its offensive to destroy the rebel group. The rebels have been fighting since 1983 for an independent ethnic Tamil state in the north and east.

He said the civilians are suffering from a "very high" casualty rate, and from lack of food, clean water and medical supplies.

Burning issue in Tamil Nadu

The refugee crisis is turning into a political issue in Tamil Nadu. As many as 25 people were arrested Saturday in Tamil Nadu when they were attempting to burn the Indian flag while protesting the killing of Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka, police said.

Eighteen were held in Chennai and seven in Thanjavur, a police spokesperson said.

In Chennai, an attempt was made to set fire to the flag in front of Shastri Bhavan, housing central government offices, the spokesperson said.

(With inputs from The Associated Press and PTI)

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