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19 civilians killed by LTTE: Colombo

COLOMBO: At least 19 civilians were killed and 75 injured when suspected LTTE cadre opened small arms fire on a group of citizens attempting to cross over to a centre for the displaced in Udayarkattukulam in Mullathivu district early on Tuesday.

Human Rights and Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe told a news conference that the Tigers “deliberately targeted” innocent civilians to trigger fear among those trapped in the war zone.

The incident, coming a day after a woman suicide bomber targeted a military check-point killing 10 civilians and 20 soldiers, has sent shock waves through political and diplomatic circles.

The government and the military view the incidents as a desperate attempt by the Tigers to stop civilians from crossing over from its fast shrinking territory and pressure the government for a ceasefire.

The LTTE has not responded to the government’s charge about Tuesday’s carnage. However, on Monday’s blast the pro-LTTE TamilNet said, “Reports from Wanni indicate that the civilian casualties at the military check-post claimed as ‘IDP rescue centre’ by the Sri Lankan Army [SLA] was in fact due to gunfire at the civilians by the SLA after a bomb blast, according to civilians who escaped the scene back to LTTE territory,” it claimed.

According to Mr. Samarasinghe, since February 2 nearly 32,000 civilians had crossed into government territory. Of these, 24,000 had been accommodated in temporary shelters at Vavuniya, Kilinochchi and Jaffna and 8, 000 other civilians were being screened by the military and would be handed over to government agents soon.

Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross ferried 240 patients from Mullathivu district to Trincomalee.

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