International

UN Staff under fire

The Associated Press is reporting…

Dozens of U.N. workers and their relatives spent a terrifying night huddling in hastily built bunkers as artillery fire pounded a civilian “safe zone” in Sri Lanka’s war-wracked north, according to an internal U.N. memo.

The memo, obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, said the artillery shells killed nine civilians in a nearby bunker and were apparently fired by government forces.

The military denied the charge and President Mahinda Rajapaksa renewed the government’s pledge not to launch attacks in the refuge as it fought to crush the Tamil Tiger rebels and end the country’s 25-year-old civil war.

As concern mounted for the estimated 250,000 civilians in the war zone, Dr. Thurairajah Varatharajah, the top health official in the area, said at least 1,140 civilians — 248 younger than 15 — were wounded in the fighting and brought to three local hospitals.

The death toll was difficult to calculate because many civilians had stopped bringing dead relatives to the hospital amid the heavy fighting, he told The Associated Press by telephone from the war zone.

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