By Shayne R. Burnham
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
TRINCOMALEE, Sri Lanka – The Liberation Tigers Tamil of Eelam (LTTE) shot at civilians as they were fleeing the rebel controlled territory on Thursday.
Two days earlier the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) helped ferried 240 sick and injured people by boat from Puttumatalan, a village controlled by the Tigers. They were taken to Trincomalee, the eastern port. One of the passengers was Sister Mary Colostica, a 74 year old Catholic nun.
Colostica, along with five other nuns, guided at least 2,000 civilians from village to village in search of food and safety from the war. She gave a first hand account from the war zone.
“When we tried to leave, the LTTE didn’t allow civilians to leave and said only we can leave.” Colostica said. “So we stayed back with the civilians.”
The ICRC said that 16 patients were killed in firings on Monday and another 160 patients were carried from Puttumtalan on Thursday.
The military said it had set up a 7 mile safety zone encompassing Puttumatalan and other villages along the coastline.
Sister Mary was shot and treated for shrapnel wounds. “At least 10 to 15 people die a day and no one is there to bury them,” she said. “The LTTE fired from close to civilians. We had objected, but that didn’t work.”
Sister Louise said that the LTTE shot at people when they begged to leave, “When we tried to escape with civilians, LTTE had fired at me. I got shot in my leg.”
Human rights organizations estimate there are at least 250,000 civilians still trapped in the stronghold.
The Tamil Tigers have consistently denied accusations that they are forcibly keeping civilians inside their territory. Instead they claim that civilians remain of their own free will. Some, they say, even follow them.
The Sri Lankan government refuses to enter into a cease-fire. Both sides deny targeting civilians and blame the other for their deaths.
The LTTE has been fighting a 25 year war with the government in order to secure a separate homeland for the ethnic Tamils.
For more information, please see:
Aljazeera.net – Tamil Tigers ‘Shoot’ at Civilians – 12 February 2009
AsiaNews – Religious Personnel Under Wanni Bombings – 10 February 2009
Reuters – Wounded Sri Lankans, Nuns Make Narrow Escape From War – 12 February 2009