02/06/2009, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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ICRC building attacked with stones in Colombo, its chief could be expelled

The leader of a Marxist party calls for the expulsion of the Red Cross chief in Sri Lanka, claiming that he is spreading false information about war casualties, thus favouring the rebels. Army claims that more than 1,600 civilians reached a security zone. Humanitarian organisations say about 250,000 civilians are trapped in the combat zone.
Colombo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) building on Layards Road in Colombo was attacked this afternoon when a group of around 100 people took over the place for about 90 minutes after throwing stones at it. The incident came a few hours after National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa called for the expulsion of ICRC head in Sri Lanka Paul Castella.

The NFF leader accused the ICRC chief of spreading false information about the tragic situation of war refugees and victims from clashes between army troops and Tamil Tiger (LTTE) rebel forces. This in Mr Weerawansa’s opinion is a sign of pro-rebel bias.

This morning army sources reported that 1,637 civilians were able to make their way to a security zone between Darmapuram and Visuamadu. They also said that the LTTE is holding onto to an area that covers just 170 km2.

The ICRC and other humanitarian groups present in the area have confirmed that an estimated 250,000 people are trapped in the area where army troops and LTTE rebels are fighting.

UN sources said that on Wednesday shelling and bombing left at least 52 people dead and 80 wounded.

Elsewhere tensions are high, especially over an alleged incident at Puthukudduyiruppu hospital.

The Sri Lankan military was slammed for allegedly attacking the hospital, but yesterday the army released a video showing that the building’s roof was still intact. At the same time it rejected claims that it used cluster bombs against the building.

The ICRC had said that the hospital has been attacked five times in three days before it was evacuated on Wednesday.

The government blamed rebels for the attack against the hospital. An army spokesman blamed the LTTE for using a “hospital strategy” to hoodwink the world.

In a telephone conversation, President Rajapaksa reassured United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon that military operations underway were not targeting civilians.

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