|Tamil Tigers fired on us as we fled, survivors claim|
|Thursday, 12 February 2009|
Mangalanath Liyanarachchi, Trincomalee, Sri Lanka
Civilians trapped by fighting between Sri Lankan troops and Tamil Tiger rebels tried to flee villages in the war zone, but the rebels opened fire as they ran, survivors claimed.
Manoharan Mahendran said villagers in Vishwamadu begged to be allowed to cross into government territory last week, but the separatist Tigers blocked their path and fired indiscriminately.
"People were helpless," said Mahendran, 53, in a rare first-hand account of the exodus.
At least 1000 others escaped Vishwamadu, said Mahendran, who went down with a gunshot to the leg. They are among tens of thousands of civilians who have fled the fighting.
Mahendran, one of hundreds of wounded who made it out on a ferry commissioned by the Red Cross on Tuesday, awaited treatment at a hospital in government-held Trincomalee.
Many arrived in critical condition and two died.
Survivors described dodging rebel fire and surviving the shelling of the last functioning hospital in the north-east.
"My wife and child got killed in the shooting by the rebels," said Selvadorai Thavakumar, 23, from Kilinochchi, the rebels' capital which the army seized last month.
The rebels have been fighting since 1983 for a separate state for Tamils. About 70,000 people have been killed.
The military has seized key rebel strongholds and pushed them into a sliver of land.
About 200,000 civilians are believed trapped in the rebel-held territory as the military pushes on with its campaign to crush the Tamil Tigers.
The government had accuses the rebels of using civilians as human shields and of firing on people fleeing.
The rebels accuse the military of making "killing fields" of so-called safe zones that the government had promised not to attack.
Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara dismissed the accusation.
"There is no reason for us to kill civilians," he said. "We were not even aware that the civilians had been shot at until they came to us."
At a camp for refugees in Vavuniya district, one woman described waiting for hours between the army and rebel lines in Suthanthirapuram village.
"At dawn we started towards the army post waving a white flag," said Kesava Sarvananda Dharshika, 20.
The rebels then fired from behind, killing her husband, a Hindu priest. She said she ran to the army post with their infant son in her arms.
Mahendran said the hospital in the rebel-held town of Puthukkudiyiruppu was shelled and many patients were killed or wounded.-
|Last Updated ( Friday, 09 October 2009 )|
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