Government Declares No Fire Zone to Protect and Rescue Civilians in Conflict Zone

In response to the ongoing detainment and intimidation by the LTTE terrorist organization of innocent civilians in the northern conflict zone, the Ambassador for Sri Lanka to the United States, Jaliya Wickramasuriya, has issued the following statement:

We are alarmed by the LTTE terrorists desperate tactics to disrupt the safe passage of innocent civilians fleeing from the conflict zone. In particular, the orchestrated suicide bomb attack earlier this week by the LTTE terrorists within a government center where innocent civilians had come to receive humanitarian assistance and medical treatment was a reckless attempt to intimidate other civilians from seeking safety and security. The terrorist attack resulted in 30 deaths and more than 60 injured and was condemned universally by the international community.

Other disturbing incidents by the LTTE terrorists include the deliberate targeting of innocent civilians by using them as human shields and even shooting those who are brave enough to flee the conflict zone.

As the LTTE terrorists continue to put innocent civilians who seek safety from the conflict zone in harms way, we urge the international community and especially the United States to put pressure on the leadership of the LTTE to immediately release the remaining civilians held captive in the conflict zone.

Meanwhile, the Government of Sri Lanka has put together a comprehensive plan to provide much needed humanitarian assistance to those who are able to seek safe passage from the conflict zone. It is our utmost priority to ensure the safety and security of the civilians and to look after their welfare.

In addition, the Government has recently declared a new safety zone to protect fleeing innocent civilians and to help facilitate the flow of
humanitarian aid and medical supplies. We are also providing access within the conflict zone to the International Committee of the Red Cross, United Nations and World Food Programme to help us in rescuing innocent citizens and providing vital services to those in our safekeeping.

We are extremely grateful for the ongoing efforts of all the NGOs including the ICRC, UN, UNICEF, WFP, Caritas, Sri Lanka Red Cross Society
and others who are supporting our humanitarian efforts and making a challenging situation more bearable for all our citizens.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

16 February 2009

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