Sri Lanka rebuffs reports of death tol

(Telegraph UK) – Government health workers in the zone told the BBC that 257 had been killed in artillery fire that began on Saturday night and continued into Sunday morning at a field hospital in Vanni district.

The claims have been denied by the Sri Lankan government, which dismissed them as “propaganda.”

A senior Tamil Tiger leader, ‘foreign minister’ Selvarasa Pathmanathan’, accused the Sri Lankan Army of killing 2,000 civilians.

The latest allegations emerged as a human rights group claimed the Sri Lankan government had deliberately targeted field hospitals in the safety zone.

Human Rights Watch called for a war crimes investigation into the deliberate targeting of hospitals by Sri Lankan forces. It said they had been struck by artillery fire after their GPS co-ordinates had been given to the Army as a precaution. Human Rights Watch said the most deadly of the attacks was on May 2nd when 68 were killed and 87 wounded when Mullaivaikal Hospital was hit by artillery fire.

The group said evidence gathered from patients, medical staff and aid workers pointed to the conclusion, which was also been denied by the Sri Lankan government. The government has consistently denied it shelled the no-fire zone since it announced an end to all aerial and heavy artillery fire at the end of April.

Journalists are not allowed to visit the ‘no-fire zone’ which means claims and counter-claims by either side in the conflict cannot be verified.

Three journalists from Channel 4 television were deported yesterday after they were arrested for alleged false reporting on the island’s civil war. Lakshman Hulugalle, the head of the government security information center, said the journalists admitted they had “done something wrong” and would not be allowed to come back to Sri Lanka.

Nick Paton-Walsh, the channel’s Asian correspondent, rejected the accusations as “complete rubbish.”