A pro-Tamil Tiger website has claimed that 64 civilians were killed in an attack on the last remaining hospital in rebel-held northern Sri Lanka. Tamilnet.com said two shells fired by government forces hit the make-shift hospital at Mulliavaikal.
AFP - At least 64 civilians were killed and another 87 wounded Saturday in an attack on the last remaining medical facility inside rebel-held territory in northeastern Sri Lanka, a pro-rebel website reported.
Tamilnet.com said two shells fired by government forces hit the make-shift hospital at Mulliavaikal in the Mullaittivu district three days after its location was given to the military through the International Committee of the Red Cross.
There was no immediate comment from the ICRC which has limited access to the combat zone, but the military denied targeting the area.
"We have not carried out any shelling, but we heard some loud explosions inside the no-fire zone and it could have been a misfire by the Tigers," military spokesman Udaya Nanayakkara said.
Charges and counter claims by both sides cannot be verified as there are no independent observers in the conflict area and the government has rejected international calls to allow neutral humanitarian access.
The latest reports of civilians casualties came as Japan's special envoy to Sri Lanka Yasushi Akashi held talks with President Mahinda Rajapakse on the humanitarian crisis.
A presidential spokesman said Akashi was told that the government wanted the Tigers to surrender and allow some 20,000 civilians still trapped in a small sliver of beach to leave to safety.
Sri Lanka's defence ministry on Saturday rejected satellite imagery issued by the United Nations in support of allegations that security forces shelled a civilian area last month.
The defence ministry said the allegations, based on UN aerial images posted on the UNOSAT website and used on several foreign television channels, had "no scientific validity" unless there was verification on the ground.
"Conclusions drawn from the interpretations of these images have no scientific validity," the ministry said, responding to reports the military had shelled an area the government itself had designated a no-fire zone.
The pictures showed craters which were formed inside the zone between February 15 and April 19, the day before the army breached the Tigers' defences and civilians started to pour out.
"The imagery is fairly clear and shows the time, so anybody can study and compare them," the head of the mapping unit at UNOSAT, Einer Bjorge, told the Al Jazeera television network.
He said the pattern of the craters would have required air power.
Sri Lanka has consistently denied it used heavy weapons against civilian populated areas and last week announced it had ordered security forces not to use heavy calibre weapons and aerial strikes.
The ruling party's main Tamil political allay, the Tamil United Liberation Front, asked the government to arrange for the Tigers to lay down arms and surrender to an international agency.
The UN estimates that up to 50,000 civilians are trapped in a narrow strip of coast where the Tamil Tigers are putting up a last stand. Government forces have said only about 20,000 people were still left in the area.
Date created : 2009-05-03