US 'deeply concerned' over civilian safety, calls for Lanka ceasefire

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Colombo, Apr 25 (ANI): Expressing deep concern over human rights violations and rising civilian causalities in Sri Lanka, the United States has called for an immediate ceasefire in the North-Eastern region of the country.

According to the BBC, United Nations humanitarian chief John Holmes is travelling to the island country to urge the Lankan Government to provide more aid to people trapped in the combat zone.

UN reports say that 160,000 people have fled the area, but 50,000 still remain.

Despite National Security Adviser M.K Narayanan and Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon's appeal to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Friday to work towards declaring a truce with the LTTE, the government there has shown no inclination to halt the offensive against the Tigers.

The Lankan Army, on Friday was successful in cornering the LTTE rebels further within an area measuring not more than five to six kilometres.

The LTTE, however, has refused to buckle, as their chief Velupillai Prabhakaran is still untraceable.

A top Sri Lankan army official has said that Prabhakaran may escape from the country via the sea route, using a submarine.

Colombo had also rejected a plan by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on April 23 to send a humanitarian team to assess the condition of people trapped by the fighting.

The Lankan authorities have clarified that there will be no more breaks in fighting against the LTTE in the north of the country.

The government, on the other hand, has also shown a different perspective of its attitude towards the issue of civilian security with the Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama stating in a TV interview that their biggest concern is the "safety of civilians".

"The fact is that during the recent two-day ceasefire, only 146 civilians could come out of the LTTE controlled area. However, since the morning of April 19, around 107,000 have managed to flee from there...there were about 15,000-20,000 civilians still trapped in the no fire zone," he said.

With the war raging on and the whereabouts of Prabhakaran still unknown, commanders in Sri Lanka are undeterred and making slow progress in their advance into the remaining tiny patch of land still controlled by the Tamil tigers.

It is a deliberate action, they say. (ANI)

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