B. Muralidhar Reddy

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa on Monday said the casualties caused by the LTTE were under-reported and urged some of the international agencies to be mindful of the responsibility cast on them in disseminating information.

He was talking to heads of the UN agencies based in Colombo at a meeting convened by Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama. “The surge of civilians leaving the conflict zone, numbering in excess of 20,000, are encouraging even though the LTTE regrettably maintains a hostile approach on the exodus of civilians,” he was quoted as telling the heads agencies of UN.

The Foreign Ministry said the objective of the meeting was to discuss all issues of mutual interest regarding the protection of civilians in the conflict zone. The UN Resident Coordinator along with the Representatives of UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP and the Chief Security Advisor of the UN Office in Colombo were present. The Defence Secretary, Chief of Defence Staff Air Vice Marshal Donald Perera, and Senior Officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs participated at the comprehensive discussion with the UN Agencies.

“Issues arising out of the LTTE holding civilians from leaving the conflict zone and the discrepancies pertaining to reported casualty figures were discussed and it was agreed that the Government and UN Agencies would work within a spirit of cooperation to assess more accurately the needs of the civilians and the measures taken for their protection by the government,” it said.

The statement said the UN officials appreciated arrangements made by Colombo to receive the IDPs and agreed to work closely with the government in this regard.

It said the Defence Secretary mentioned that the LTTE continued to use children as suicide cadre and the UNICEF representative expressed his desire to receive regular updates on the subject.

On the suicide blast in which 28 persons were killed, the military alleged that on February 4 the LTTE used a 13 year old suicide bomber against the advancing troops in Chalai.

The military claimed on Sunday a group of civilians escaping from the LTTE hellholes North of Visuamadu and Sugandirapuram overran an LTTE barricade assaulting a Tiger ‘police’ cadre and killing two women cadre. “Similarly civilians, who were forcibly armed and sent to the forefront by LTTE, have taken on the less numbered LTTE cadres beating the terrorists and tying them behind, on February 7.”

In a report on the suicide blast pro-LTTE TamilNet said, “Everyone including the civilian side, international humanitarian agencies, international media and several countries, except only the Colombo government, has been demanding all these times for an International Rescue Mission and independent monitoring agencies. However, no power in this earth is being able to materialise that.”

In another report TamilNet said, “Sri Lanka Army [SLA] continued indiscriminate barrage of artillery shelling on the ‘safety zone’ killing more than 80 civilians and causing injuries to 200”.

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