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Shelling of Hospital in Northern Sri Lanka Kills 11

  • VOA News

The Sri Lankan government is urging civilians trapped by fighting in the rebel-held north to go to a "safety zone," after repeated shelling of a hospital in the region killed 11 people.

A government spokesman (Lakshman Hulugalle) says the government can not be responsible for the safety of civilians still living among what he called "terrorists" -- a reference to Tamil Tiger rebels.

Concern has grown for an estimated 250-thousand people trapped by a government offensive against rebels who now control only 300 square kilometers of territory in the northeast.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says at least nine people were killed Sunday in the shelling of a crowded hospital in rebel-held territory. Two other people were killed when the hospital came under attack again today (Monday).

United Nations spokesman Gordon Weiss says it is uncertain where the shelling came from. He says the hospital has hundreds of patients who are critically injured and are not receiving proper medical treatment.

A local health official said the Sri Lankan army fired the shells. The army denies responsibilty and blames the Tamil Tiger rebels. A pro-rebel Web site blames the the army.

The Tamil Tigers have been fighting since 1983 to establish an independent homeland for the Tamil ethnic minority in Sri Lanka's north and east. More than 70-thousand people have died in the conflict.

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