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Terrorism & Security

Sri Lanka accused of shelling civilians

At least 378 died in an overnight bombardment, a government doctor said. The military denies the attack.

By / May 10, 2009

Sri Lankans took refugee Saturday at a makeshift hospital in Mullivaaykaal.



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Already facing allegations of human rights abuses and war crimes, the Sri Lankan government may have implicated itself further amid new allegations that it shelled civilians on Saturday and Sunday. The alleged bombardment, part of the government's bid to end the protracted standoff with the last remaining elements of the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), has reportedly left hundreds dead and injured.

The military has denied the attack, but a government doctor quoted by the Associated Press said more than 378 people had been killed and 1,100 wounded.

For weeks, Sri Lankan government forces have had the LTTE cornered in their last remaining stronghold on the northern tip of the island nation. Thousands of civilians are trapped inside LTTE fortifications. The rebel group has been accused of using them as human shields.

With a media ban still in place, it remains difficult to verify these claims, reports the BBC. The news channel's correspondent in Colombo, however, said "health officials are convinced the shells are coming from territory held by the Sri Lankan army." Additionally, he reported that "two hospitals were struggling to cope with the casualties, and that people were hiding in bunkers and many makeshift tents had been burnt."

Meanwhile, TamilNet, a pro-Tamil website that supports LTTE, reports that the "indiscriminate barrage" may have killed up to 2,000 civilians, but said it could confirm only the same number of causalities as the BBC. This most recent attack could have been provoked by increasing pressure from India for the Sri Lankan government to bring and end to the conflict before a new government takes control in India, reports TamilNet.

India, however, has officially ruled out intervening in their island neighbor's conflict. In a statement on Saturday, India's prime minister said that a lasting solution to Asia's longest-running war can only come from within Sri Lanka, reports Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency.

"There can be no military solution to the problems of Tamils in Sri Lanka. The legitimate aspirations of the Tamil-speaking minority must be fulfilled within the framework of a united and federal Sri Lanka through a negotiated and peaceful settlement," Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in a statement to the media in the southern city of Chennai.

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