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SRI LANKA: UN urges greater protection of civilians after bombs kill 24

COLOMB0 , 8 June 2008 (IRIN) - The UN has renewed calls for increased protection of unarmed civilians in accordance with international humanitarian law after two attacks on 6 June targeted civilian buses, eight hours apart, leaving 24 dead and more than 80 injured.

In the first attack, a bus full of morning commuters was hit at around 7.30am by a Claymore mine-type explosion at Katubedda, a suburb 15km south of the capital, Colombo. Twenty-two people were killed and more than 60 injured in that incident, according to police.

The second bomb, in the rear of a passenger bus in Polgolla town, Kandy District, about 120km from Colombo, left two dead and more than 20 injured.

"These attacks on civilians are against all standards of international humanitarian law," Neil Buhne, the UN resident representative and humanitarian coordinator in Sri Lanka, told IRIN. "They are against all principles on which the UN is based."

The latest two bombings added to the long list of attacks on civilians, especially targeting public transport, since a ceasefire between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) broke down on 16 January 2008.

Not counting the latest two attacks, at least 14 others have taken place, most in government-controlled areas, killing more than 200 civilians, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The government has blamed the Tamil Tigers for the attacks, while the Tigers have accused teams from the Sri Lankan Army of targeting civilians in areas under LTTE control. Both sides have denied the charges.

Contravening international law

"The targeting of non-combatants is a contravention of international humanitarian law, for which those responsible must be held accountable," UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes said in a statement on 29 May.

On 27 May, nine civilians were killed and more than 70 injured when a parcel bomb exploded in a packed evening train, south of Colombo. On 24 May, a roadside bomb in LTTE-controlled Kilinochchi District, 250km north of the capital, left 17 civilians dead.

"This despicable behaviour must stop," Holmes stated.

Buhne said the sentiments expressed by Holmes had become even more relevant and important with the latest attacks. He warned that deliberate attacks on civilians not only hampered humanitarian work in conflict areas, but made innocent civilians too scared to lead normal lives.

"What these attacks do is that they make people scared," he said. "There should be a sense of safety for any kind of work to progress, humanitarian or development."


Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Early Warning



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This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
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