UN chief slams rebel shelling in Sri Lanka

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 27, 2007 (AFP) – UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday condemned a Tamil rebel artillery attack in Sri Lanka that injured several foreign diplomats, including a UN official, taking part in a humanitarian assessment mission. “The secretary general condemns the shelling” by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Batticaloa district, “which was in total disregard for the lives of civilians, humanitarian workers, government officials and the international community,” his spokeswoman Michele Montas told a press briefing.

She said the UN resident coordinator was among at least a dozen people injured in Tuesday’s shelling. In Colombo, the government said the ambassadors of Italy and the United States were also hurt in the raid.

The diplomats were visiting Batticaloa for the first time after security forces last month dismantled a de facto separate state the Tigers ran in the region for over a decade.

The Sri Lankan military retaliated for the Tuesday attack with air attacks against suspected LTTE positions, military officials said.

The LTTE said at least 20 civilians were wounded in the government’s air assault.

Montas meanwhile said Ban called on the government and the LTTE “to end the destructive