01/27/2009, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Massacre of civilians, bishop of Jaffna calls for extension of buffer zone

by Melani Manel Perera
Hundreds of civilians dead, killed even in the "safety zone." The army and the Tamil Tigers are trading accusations. Bishop of Jaffna: the buffer zone must be extended immediately and respected, to save many lives.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - Massacres of hundreds of civilians in Sri Lanka, while the violent clashes continue between the army and rebels of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who are continuing to give ground. Thomas Savundaranayagam, the bishop of Jaffna, has issued an anguished appeal to the president for the extension of the "safety zone," and protection for the civilians.

Two days ago, the army entered into the port of Mullaittivu, the last major city controlled by the LTTE, and the violent clashes have continued. The government says at least 170 civilians have died, and more than 720 have been hospitalized, but today local sources say that there are at least 300 dead, with "corpses abandoned and injured people, incapable of moving, lying everywhere." The two warring parties are exchanging accusations over the deaths. There are at least 250,000 civilians in the area of the fighting, trapped between the two armies and the jungle. But many have also died in the buffer zone.

In response to the massacre, Bishop Savundaranayagam today issued an appeal to the two armies, urging them "to pay careful attention to the security zone," if they want to avoid "more and more deaths."

Two days ago the bishop, in a letter to the president, warned that the "safety zone" created in the western part of Mulaithiyu is not sufficient, because "it is a small area, and cannot accommodate the large number of people going there." "Priests and sisters who are with the refugees," he continued, "have told me that the people are seeking shelter in the churches in the eastern part of Mullaittivu," outside of the buffer zone. This must be extended "as soon as possible," he concluded, "in order to save as many lives as possible."

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