Aid workers killed in Sri Lanka war zone


Colombo : A volunteer doctor and a Red Cross worker were killed Wednesday in fighting in northeastern Sri Lanka as civilian casualties mounted in the region where government troops are fighting to end a 25-year insurgency by Tamil rebels, medical sources in the area said.

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The doctor and the Red Cross worker were killed in shelling in the Mullaitivu district but it was not clear who was responsible for the attack, the medical sources said.

A Red Cross representative in Colombo confirmed that one of the aid group’s workers, identified as Mayurna Sivagurunathan, was killed along with his mother.

The volunteer doctor who died in the same shelling was not identified.

The medical sources said that because of ongoing fighting, 200 more injured people had been brought Wednesday to makeshift hospitals in the district.

Because of fighting over the weekend and Tuesday, more than 1,200 people were injured and most of them needed evacuation for medical treatment, but a Red Cross-chartered ship that attempted to remove the injured from the war zone could not reach shore because of the heavy fighting between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

In related fighting, the LTTE tried to carry out a suicide attack on government troops by sea Wednesday off northeastern Sri Lanka but the attack was foiled with security forces sinking at least three boats, a military spokesman said.

The rebels sent four suicide boats to attack the forward defences of a newly recaptured area in a so-called safety zone, an area meant for civilians to gather when fleeing the final LTTE-held area in the country.

More than 20,000 civilians were estimated to remain in the rebel-held territory of less than six square kilometres on the coast of the Mullaitivu district, 395 km northeast of Colombo. The government is conducting an offensive to capture the area and defeat the LTTE, which has been fighting for 25 years for an independent homeland for the Tamil ethnic minority.

More than 450 civilians have been killed in the area since the weekend with the government and the LTTE each blaming one another for the casualties.