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100,000 face death in Sri Lanka

SRI LANKA (ACN): The bishop of war-torn northern Sri Lanka has written to the country’s President warning that more than 100,000 people face “total annihilation”, unless an immediate evacuation is ordered.

Describing how government and rebel forces are preparing for “the final battle”, Bishop Thomas Savundaranayagam’s urgent message to President Mahinda Rajapaksa on March 12 pleaded on behalf of people trapped in a war zone in the north-east of the country.

The Bishop of Jaffna’s letter, a copy of which he sent to the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, comes as the armed forces of the Colombo-based Government prepared for a final showdown with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), also known as the Tamil Tigers.

In the letter, the bishop made plain his fear for people cut off in a narrow, 11.2km-long “safe zone” in the coastal district of Mulaithivu.

Underlining “the perilous situation of total annihilation of civilians in the no-fire zone”, the bishop wrote: “The Sri Lankan army and the LTTE are poised against each other to fight the final battle.”

“Since the situation is extremely dangerous, we request fast and stern action to respond to the present vital need for the safety of civilians,” he said.

The letter, a copy of which was sent to LTTE political chief Balasingham Nadesan, called on both sides to work together on a plan to evacuate the people by land or sea to a safe area within the districts of Kilinochchi and Mulaithivu.

Describing how until now government forces have ignored his “repeated requests to open a safe corridor” for people to leave the area, the bishop wrote: “The (Sri Lankan Army has) persisted in using heavy weapons like artillery and mortar shells and simply drove the people away from a safe corridor to the present situation.”

Proposing a five-point emergency plan to be implemented by both sides in conjunction with the United Nations observers, Bishop Savundaranaygam called for a cease-fire to allow UN representatives to investigate the region and issue a report.

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