Full extent of bloodbath in Sri Lanka is revealed
Total number of wounded in final onslaught on Tigers was hidden
The Sri Lankan government has deliberately concealed the number of civilians wounded during its final onslaught against the Tamil Tigers, according to new documents.
Of the 10,191 patients evacuated to the north-eastern port of Trincomalee from the "no-fire zone" in Mullaitivu between February and May 9 as the 26-year civil war reached its bloody climax, 3,113 were recorded as "seriously wounded" with injuries that included deep abdominal wounds and the loss of hands, feet and limbs.
Aid workers and officials helping to evacuate refugees from the war zone said that more than 30 per cent arrived with serious injuries caused by shelling.Those figures have been logged by the Sri Lankan government. However, it boasted last week that not a drop of civilian blood had been spilt by the army in its operation to drive the Tamil Tigers from their last remaining enclave.
Aid workers familiar with events during the final army push before the separatist terrorist group surrendered said that the Trincomalee casualty figures represent only a fraction of the total.
Up to 60 per cent of more than 250,000 people who fled the fighting have injuries caused by shelling, mortar fire and gunshots, it was claimed.
"They are major wounds -- legs broken, open abdomens, head injuries and limbs removed. All from shelling and flying objects," said a medical official.
Another rescue official said that none of the patients were injured by Tamil Tiger landmines as the government had claimed. The full extent of the humanitarian crisis unfolding in northern Sri Lanka emerged yesterday when Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary-General, visited squalid refugee camps in the north-east of the country. He was the first senior world figure to visit the area since the government said it had ended the insurgency last week.
After arriving in Colombo he flew by helicopter over the war zone. Below him lay the tiny strip of land where the Tigers made their last stand. Pockmarked with craters, it was dotted with the detritus of destruction: burnt-out vehicles, charred buildings and an abandoned tent city.
Mr Ban then toured Manik Farm, the main refugee camp where more than 200,000 people were sheltering in a crowded mishmash of corrugated iron shacks and tents.
He also visited a field hospital, where 100 elderly patients, some with gaping wounds and clearly malnourished, lay on blankets exposed to the elements.
"I'm very moved after what I have seen; I've seen so many wounded," said Mr Ban. He added that those who had fled the fighting between Tamil Tiger rebels and government forces were in urgent need of food, water and sanitation, and promised to press the Sri Lankan government to allow aid agencies access.
The camp, referred to by Sri Lankan authorities as a "welfare village," was surrounded by barbed wire and under heavy guard. The government has been accused of holding civilians in order to flush out any remaining Tiger fighters who might be among them, but it has pledged to return them to their home districts by the end of the year.
Mr Ban accepted a commitment from Sri Lanka's President, Mahinda Rajapakse. to help those caught up in the conflict. "It is time for Sri Lankans to heal the wounds and unite," he said. Critics of the Sri Lankan government are demanding war crimes prosecutions.
Mr Ban said: "Wherever there are serious violations of human rights as well as international humanitarian law, proper investigation should be instituted."