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Over 10,000 civilians crossed over: Army

B. Muralidhar Reddy

Medical care is part of rescue mission, says Colombo

COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan military on Sunday claimed that over 10,000 civilians trapped in the war zone have crossed over to safe zone in the first week of February.

The military’s statistics of people crossing over from the last remaining stretch of land under the LTTE show a spurt in the movement of people caught in the war between the forces and the Tigers.

As per the government estimates as of February 1, there were 1.2 lakh civilians held up in the Tiger-held territory in the Mullathivu district. There have been serious concerns over the fate of the trapped citizens as the area under the LTTE control is fast shrinking.

The Defence Ministry said here in a statement arrangements had been made at the frontlines to provide immediate medical care and refreshments to the civilians seeking refuge with the security forces.

“Also, transportation of the patients to the hospitals and others to civilian welfare centres elsewhere is provided by the security forces. A senior defence official, explaining about the sudden increase of civilians escaping the terrorist clutches in Wanni, said it is a result of a well-planned rescue mission launched by the security forces,” said the Ministry.

It said the Army manoeuvres had been planned and executed with great care to enable civilians to get out of the human shield. Navy deployments have been changed with more boats assigned for search and rescue missions for those civilians taking sea route to flee LTTE clutches.

“As a result, the terrorist barricades against civilian movements have been weakening and more and more escape routes have been opened for the civilians to come out of the human shield,” it quoted the official as saying.

Separately, the Navy claimed to have destroyed two low-profile LTTE boats off Mullathivu. It said naval surveillance and patrolling in the north-eastern seas and naval fortifications had been tightened to cut off the escape routes of the LTTE cadre and prevent the unloading of weapons. Meanwhile, pro-LTTE TamilNet alleged that 120 civilians were killed in Army shelling on Friday and Saturday inside the safety zone in Chuthanthirapuram, Iruddumadu, Udaiyaarkaddu and Theavipuram within the last 48 hours.

“At least 59 civilians were killed on Friday and more than 62 killed on Saturday. Sri Lanka Air Force [SLAF] bombed Puthukkdiyiruppu [PTK] Ponnampalam hospital killing 61 patients on Friday. Casualty figures from SLA shelling in Puthukkudiyiruppuu were not available,” it said.

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