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Doctor says 1,000 killed in Sri Lanka

THE United Nations condemned a "bloodbath" in Sri Lanka's northern war zone yesterday after two days of shelling that a government doctor said killed as many as 1,000 ethnic Tamil civilians - including 106 children.

Volunteers dug mass graves in the marshland, putting 50 to 60 bodies in each pit, according to Dr V. Shanmugarajah, who works at a makeshift hospital in the war zone. He said one nurse was killed along with his family in a trench that was then filled with soil and turned into their grave.

Shanmugarajah said the hospital was so short-staffed that many of those wounded in the first barrage on Saturday had still not been treated by yesterday morning. "The hospital death rate is increasing, but we are helpless," he said.

A rebel-linked Website blamed the attacks on the government, while the government denied firing any artillery into the area.

"The UN has consistently warned against the bloodbath scenario as we've watched the steady increase in civilian deaths over the last few months," UN spokesman Gordon Weiss said. "The large-scale killing of civilians over the weekend, including the deaths of more than 100 children, shows that bloodbath has become a reality."

The first barrage struck the tiny sliver of northeast coast still held by the rebels on Saturday evening and lasted through the night, health officials said.

On Sunday evening, a new round of shelling pounded a newly demarcated "safe zone" where the government had urged civilians to gather, said Shanmugarajah.

A total of 393 people were either brought to the hospital for burial or died at the facility on Sunday, while another 37 bodies were brought in yesterday morning, he said. The dead included 106 children, he added.

More than 1,300 wounded civilians came to the hospital as well.

However, the death toll was likely far higher, he said. Many of the dead were buried in bunkers where they had taken refuge and then were killed, and many of the wounded never made it to the hospital for treatment.

"There were many who died without medical attention," Shanmugarajah said. "Seeing the number of wounded and from what the people tell me, I estimate the death toll to be around 1,000."

Reports are difficult to verify because the government bars journalists and aid workers from the war zone.


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