9 people killed in N Sri Lanka as hospital shelled

By Xinhua,

COLOMBO : At least nine people were killed and 20 others injured when a hospital in Sri Lanka’s northern Vanni region partly controlled by Tamil Tiger rebels was shelled three times on Sunday, a spokeswoman from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Monday.

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Sarasi Wijeratne said Puthukkudiyiruppu Hospital in the Mullaitivu district was directly hit two tiaames between 3 p.m. to 4p.m. (0930 GMT to 1030 GMT), and another shelling came at about 10 p.m. (1630 GMT).

“Nine people were killed and 20 others injured as the kitchen, the church and the children’s ward of the hospital were hit by the shelling,” said Wijeratne.

The spokeswoman said the ICRC has no idea where did the shelling come from as government troops and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were engaged in fierce battles in the area.

She called on both parties to respect international humanitarian law and ensure safe evacuation of the patients to government controlled areas.

The hospital currently has over 500 in-patients, some of them still waiting to be transferred to the government-controlled area for more adequate treatment, the ICRC said Sunday in a statement.

“We’re shocked that the hospital was hit … Wounded and sick people, medical personnel and medical facilities are all protected by international humanitarian law. Under no circumstance may they be directly attacked,” Paul Castella, head of the Colombo delegation of the ICRC was quoted by the statement as saying.

The ICRC has been supporting the hospital’s staff by setting up a makeshift structure for triage, receiving ambulances, and helping to clean the facility. It has also provided mattresses for patients who find themselves in the corridors because there is no longer any room in the wards.

ICRC staff are present in the hospital and, together with the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society, continue to support the Ministry of Health staff caring for the injured and sick there, said the statement.

The LTTE is now confined to a small jungle area in Mullaitivu as 95 percent of its territories in the north and east have been captured by the troops since July 2006.

Claiming discrimination at the hands of majority Sinhalese-dominated governments, the LTTE has been fighting for more than two decades to set up an independent Tamil homeland in the north and east.

More than 70,000 people have been killed so far in one of Asia’s longest civil wars.