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‘LTTE holds 300 patients at gunpoint’

B. Muralidhar Reddy

COLOMBO: The Sri Lanka military said on Wednesday that officials of the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) and the United Nations, who went to the LTTE-controlled Puthukkudiyiruppu area in Mullaithivu district on Tuesday to fetch 300 patients for further treatment in the Vavuniya hospital, were turned back and the patients were kept captive at gunpoint as human shield.

Confirming this, the U.N. office here said in a statement that it would attempt for the second time in three days to help evacuate by convoy hundreds of critically wounded civilians from the north, including at least 50 seriously injured children.

Convoy trapped

“The convoy has been trapped for days in the town of Puthukkudiyiruppu, which lies just across the lines of confrontation in the Tamil Tiger-controlled territory. If permission is granted by the LTTE, and if a lull in fighting permits, the convoy will cross the frontline at mid-day Thursday. The injured will then be transported to Ministry of Health hospitals in Vavuniya that can cope with their wounds,” it said.

In a separate statement, the ICRC said hundreds of patients needed emergency treatment and evacuation from the LTTE held zone to the Vavuniya hospital in the government-controlled area. It said that in response to the crisis it was stepping up its support for Puthukkudiyiruppu Hospital in Wanni, even as the military announced that the advancing troops took control of the Visuamadu junction.

The military said that in the fighting, several LTTE cadres were killed and troops gained control over a 10-km stretch of the road running north of Visuamadu via Puliyampokkanai towards Chundikkulama.

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