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Sri Lanka: Young Child Among 7 Killed

Sri Lanka: Young Child Among 7 Killed While Fleeing Fighting; UN Urges End To Conflict

New York, Dec 15 2006 2:00PM

A young child was among seven Sri Lankan displaced persons who died today when their boat capsized while they were fleeing fighting between Government troops and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the east of the island, the United Nations said, repeating calls for both sides to protect civilians and end the conflict.

“The United Nations is distressed to hear about the tragic loss of life today of seven internally displaced persons (IDPs), including a young child, whose boat capsized as they tried to reach safety away from Vaharai. More are feared dead as two boats remain missing,” the UN office in Sri Lanka said in a statement, warning that people are risking their lives daily to escape.

The statement urged both parties to find immediate means to ensure the safe passage and protection of civilians in the Vaharai area.

It also called for a cessation of hostilities by both parties and urged the LTTE to help and allow IDPs to leave the area, adding that that the Sri Lankan Army should ensure their safe passage.

The UN also called on both sides to comply with their obligations under International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, particularly regarding protecting civilians and IDPs.

Today’s statement is the second this week on Sri Lanka after Amin Awad, Acting UN resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, said on Tuesday it was “critical” to protect these desperate civilians after days of deadly shelling had killed an unknown number, left dozens wounded and forced thousands to flee their homes.

In Trincomalee district, which is also in the east, some 2,500 civilians have left their homes and taken refuge in Kantale, while approximately 35,000 people remain trapped along a sliver of land where Government troops and the LTTE are fighting.

Humanitarian agencies are delivering immediate assistance to the affected population and separately the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has said it was helping almost 4,000 people in Kantale, who were forced to flee their homes because of fighting.

Also this week, the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, highlighted in particular a recent attack on a school and the effect the decades-old conflict is having on the country’s young people.

Fighting between Government troops and the LTTE has intensified since April, despite a ceasefire agreed in 2002 aimed at ending the conflict that has lasted for more than 20 years and claimed some 60,000 lives.

Ends

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