TITLE=SRI LANKA CHURCH ATTACK (L-ONLY)
INTRO: At least 35 civilians were killed and more than
60 wounded in an attack on a 400-year-old Catholic
shrine in Northern Sri Lanka. Vandana
Chopra has the details from Colombo.
TEXT: Government Military officials say Tiger rebels
fired mortars and artillery indiscriminately at the
church in Madhu in the Northern Wanni region,
Saturday. A statement from the church did not fix
blame for the attack.
The bishop of Mannar said that a large number of
refugees were in the Dutch-built church to escape the
fighting between government forces and the Tamil Tiger
rebels. Church officials said the dead included at
least 13 children who were sleeping in a chapel in the
shrine complex when the shells hit.
Church authorities says besides destruction to the
Sacred Heart chapel, a section of the main shrine had
also suffered extensive damage. They say the holy
shrine had come under artillery fire on Saturday when
some 300 government soldiers were in the compound
The Catholic Bishop's conference of Sri Lanka has
appealed to the military and the rebels to withdraw
from the area around the shrine and refrain from using
it for any strategic and political advantage.
Last week, Tiger guerillas said they had taken control
of the area around the Madhu church, but Sunday's
government ministry statement said the rebels had been
pushed out of the area by Saturday.
On Sunday the government military vacated the area at
the request of the church.
Since last month fighting has intensified in the
Northern Wanni region, with the guerillas capturing
key military bases.
Tiger guerillas have been fighting for a separate
homeland for the minority Tamil community in Sri
Lanka's North and East since 1983.(Signed)
21-Nov-1999 04:32 AM EDT (21-Nov-1999 0932 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
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