UN chief regrets civilian deaths in Lanka

While reiterating his calls to the Sri Lanka government and Tamil Tiger rebels to suspend hostilities to allow safe passage to civilians caught in the island’s war-zone, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed strong regrets over the mounting civilian death toll and the worsening humanitarian crisis in the country’s ‘decisive war’ with itself.

In the midst of growing international pressures over rights violations in the country, Sri L;anka government has said it would open two regulated escape routes for civilians caught in the raging conflict between the islands majority Sinhalese government and separatist minority Tamil rebels.

Aid agencies, prominently the International Red Cross has repeatedly warned of an impending humanitarian crisis in the insurgency hit island’s north-east.

Ban stressed on the urgent need to bring the conflict in north-eastern Sri Lanka to a speedy end without any additions to the steep civilian death toll.

According to the government some 70,000 civilians, mostly women and children, are caught in the midst of raging battles between Sri Lanka’s irreverent army and the outlawed rebels, Tamil groups however put the number at close to 200,000.

The rebels blame the Lanka government of venting ire on civilians while the government blames the minority Tamil civilians of sheltering and sympathizing with Tiger rebels that use them as human shields.

While both sides shun responsibility, aid agencies claim hundreds of civilians, including children, have been either killed after getting caught in the cross-fire, since the Sri Lanka government launched what it terms a ‘decisive war’ against Tiger rebels.

Renewing earlier calls, Ban also called on Tigers rebels to remove strategic installations and fighters from civilian areas and co-operate with aid and relief agencies apart from immediately putting an end to its policy of recruiting children.

Ban’s comments came in the wake of a Sri Lanka government announcement that said two new ‘safe routes’ would soon be opened to help civilians escape the island’s nerth-eastern battle-zone.

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