Sri Lanka deaths rising, group warns

Associated Press / April 11, 2009
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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - An international rights group yesterday urged Sri Lanka's military to stop firing artillery into a designated "no fire" zone, saying civilian casualties were skyrocketing.

The plea came as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon telephoned Sri Lanka's president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, to discuss the plight of about 100,000 civilians trapped in the zone.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said the area has been subjected to heavy shelling since Tuesday.

"Sri Lanka's so-called 'no-fire zone' is now one of the most dangerous places in the world," Brad Adams, the group's Asia director, said in a statement.

Adams said the artillery barrages were "causing skyrocketing casualties." A doctor in the region told the group more than 120 people were killed over a three-day period and about 700 were wounded, the statement said.

The pro-rebel TamilNet website said on Thursday that shelling by the military killed 129 civilians inside the safe zone on Wednesday.

Media Minister Anura Yapa rejected the allegations.