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'UN alarmed over increasing civilian casualties in Sri Lanka'
Dharam Shourie in New York
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January 30, 2009 14:14 IST
United Nations' top human rights official has voiced serious concern over the deteriorating condition of some 250,000 civilians trapped in the war-torn northern Sri Lanka [Images] and increasing casualties, displacement and alleged human rights abuses.

"The perilous situation of civilians after many months of fighting, multiple displacements, heavy rains and flooding is extremely worrying," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said. Pillay is the latest UN official, along with Scretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other heads of UN agencies, to express her concerns directly to the government.

"We are all seriously alarmed by the situation," she said, "as are many of the non-government organisations and other organisations operating in Sri Lanka."

An estimated 250,000 civilians are trapped in areas of northern Sri Lanka where fighting continues between Lankan forces and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Nearly 5,000 people have managed to cross the zones held by the LTTE [Images] to government-controlled areas since late November, UN said.

Gordon Weiss, spokesman for the UN humanitarian co-ordinator in Sri Lanka, said UN international staff members on Thursday accompanied a convoy of hundreds of wounded civilians, away from the front lines.

UN staff, he added, witnessed the injury and deaths of dozens of people over the weekend at close quarters, while the hospitals in the area are being overwhelmed by the numbers of wounded.

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