UN fears for Sri Lankan civilians as attacks escalate

Jan 8, 2007 (AFP) – The United Nations Monday condemned weekend bomb attacks on bus passengers in Sri Lanka and and called on the combatants in the island’s ethnic conflict to ensure civilian safety in battle zones.

“The United Nations calls for the protection of all civilians throughout the island,” the statement said.

The bus bombings that killed 21 people and left another 120 wounded over the weekend have been seen as tit-for-tat attacks by the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who face a Sri Lankan army push into the rebel-held town of Vakarai, where civilians are unable to escape the fighting.

“The situation in Vakarai in the east is grave and demands an urgent response,” the UN statement said.

“According to government estimates, 15,000 people are isolated without access to food or basic supplies, as stocks are decimated.”

The UN said it was ready to assist those still trapped in Vakarai.

“These persons are the most vulnerable of the vulnerable. We must always recall that it is the most weak who remain behind — the elderly, the sick and the disabled,” the UN said.

“They are still without access to food, emergency medical services and shelter, and continue to