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 Post subject: Muttur showdown - 40,000 refugees, over 40 civilians dead
 Post Posted: Sat Aug 05, 2006 2:05 pm 
Over 40 civilians dead and 40,000 rendered homeless in Sri Lanka

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B. Muralidhar Reddy
@ The Hindu


Colombo, Aug 5.: The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) chief, Ulf Henricsson is leaving on Saturday for Muttur town, which has been the theatre of bloody clashes between the Sri Lanka military and the LTTE for the last three days, for an on the spot assessment of the ground situation.

The battle for control of the town in Government territory has already claimed over 40 civilian lives and rendered over 40,000 homeless. NGOs fear a major humanitarian crisis if hostilities continue.

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Various parties have made futile attempts in the last 48 hours to persuade the two sides to halt fighting. Late on Friday, the Sri Lanka Government and the LTTE agreed to cease-fire for the duration when the SLMM chief would be in Muttur town, a spokesperson of the mission told The Hindu.

The Lanka Army and the LTTE claim to be in control of Muttur. In its latest update the military said Tamil Tiger terrorists who were exhausted after days of losing battle for Muttur in the face of stiff resistance by Security Forces launched one of their `last battles' to the Muttur Jetty. It said that Lanka Naval troops were believed to have killed over 152 and injured over 124 Tamil Tiger cadres.

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Concerned at the situation in and around Muttur, major aid agencies here made a joint appeal on Friday for a "humanitarian corridor" to ensure safe passage of civilians, aid workers and relief items to ease the suffering of the people under seize. The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) urged a 48 hour ceasefire,

The Norwegian Special Envoy, Hanssen-Bauer who flew in from Oslo for talks with the representatives of Government and the LTTE in a bid to de-escalate tensions and save the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) called on the Foreign Minister, Mangala Samaraweera. He would be in Kilinochchi, the administrative headquarters of the LTTE, on Saturday.

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The nature of crisis particularly after the Muttur showdown was evident in the desperate plea by aid agencies here. "We in the humanitarian community... are gravely concerned about the alarming violence in areas of Trincomalee district. Muttur has suffered severely as a result of shelling and lack of access has hampered our ability to provide assistance to civilians in dire need of urgent help. It is appalling to note the significant civilian casualties and distressing to know that civilians, including the injured are still trapped in fear, cowering in public buildings which are getting caught in the crossfire," they said in a statement.

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"We strongly urge both parties to respect the existing ceasefire, accept a cessation of violence and facilitate access for a rapid assessment of needs to occur to enable delivery of assistance to the civilian population," the relief agencies said in the appeal. They said the "immediate" establishment of a humanitarian corridor for safe passage for civilians, aid workers and relief items is needed to reduce suffering of civilian population in these areas.


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