02/10/2009, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Religious personnel under Wanni bombings

by Melani Manel Perera
Hundreds of thousands of people are trapped in the war zone. There is a lack of food in Wanni: over the past 10 days, only 8 aid trucks have been sent for 250,000 people. No one can enter the refugee centers managed by the government.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - "The situation in Wanni is pathetic. About 250,000 northern civilians are trapped in a very small area. Continuous aerial bombing and artillery shelling takes place. Within the last 10 days, only 8 trucks of food have been sent to Wanni to feed the 250,000 persons." A source for AsiaNews, who has asked to remain anonymous, describes the situation of the refugees in the northern region of Sri Lanka where the army and Tamil Tigers are fighting.

The area of Suthanthirapuram is part of the buffer zone set up by the government. "It is here many of the priests and religious and thousands of people are gathered. But they were also targets of the military. So many people are killed, daily. One nun was injured in the attack yesterday. Aside from this place, north of Mullaithievu on the coast there are 60,000 people.  There are 6 priests staying in this place with the people. It is not a safe zone. So they are vulnerable to the attacks."

The bishop of Jaffna, Thomas Saundranayagam, has asked the government to include this area in the buffer zone, but so far this has not been done. According to the source for AsiaNews, "the military is discouraging people from staying outside of the safe zone. It is for the same reason that the military attacked the Puthukudiyirrupu hospital." The accusation, which has also been made by UN personnel, has been denied by the government of Colombo, which has blamed the Tamil rebels.

The defense ministry says that on February 9, more than 6,500 civilians came to the areas of Visuamadu, Dharmapuram, and Sugandirapuram, which have been cleared of rebels. The civilians include 1,317 families and 334 individuals, but security forces in Wanni affirm that many more remain trapped in the jungle under the attacks of the Tamil rebels.

Only soldiers are in place to welcome the refugees to the centers set up by the military. The source states that "no one knows how many people are coming from Wanni, and how many stay in the refugee centers, or if some of them are being taken to prison camps." No one is being permitted to enter the camps, and the refugees may not leave for any reason. Some of them fear that the government wants to keep them there to colonize the Tamil villages with Sinhalese.

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See also
Rajapaksa to apostolic nuncio: get priests out of conflict zone
04/02/2009
Religious visit the refugees, prisoners in the camps
19/03/2009
Columbo army creates safe zone for civilians fleeing war
23/01/2009
Situation worsens for civilians in Wanni
07/02/2009
Church of Colombo collects food and medicine for refugees from north
19/02/2009