Sri Lanka hospital shelled in fighting, nine killed

February 2, 2009 (AFP) – Shells hit a crowded hospital in northeast Sri Lanka, killing at least nine people and raising fears Monday for thousands of civilians caught in a final military push against cornered Tamil Tiger rebels. The hospital, which is in rebel-held-territory and houses around 500 patients, took direct hits in two separate shelling incidents on Sunday, aid agencies and medical workers said.

At least nine patients were killed and 15 injured.

“We’re shocked that the hospital was hit, and this for the second time in recent weeks,” said Paul Castella, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation in Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo.

The ICRC did not say which side was responsible for the shelling, but the army denied involvement, saying it was carried out by the rebels in a bid to “discredit” the military.

“We know the exact location of the hospital,” said military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara. “We are ready at any moment to arrange safe passage for civilians in that area.”

The hospital is located inside the 300-square-kilometre (110-square-mile) area of jungle where remnants of the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are staging a final, desperate sta