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Last updated at 14:35 BST, Monday, 11 May 2009

Civilian casualties in Sri Lanka

Summary

11 May 2009

A spokeman from the United Nations has described the situation in northern Sri Lanka as a 'bloodbath' after reports of heavy civilian casualties and large-scale killing at the weekend.

Reporter:
Charles Haviland

Injured civilians resting at a makeshift hospital in Sri Lanka

Injured civilians

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Report

The UN's spokesman here, Gordon Weiss, told the BBC that more than 100 children died during what he called the large-scale killing of civilians over the weekend. He said the UN had 'warned against the bloodbath scenario' and the weekend's events showed that 'that bloodbath has become a reality'.

A doctor working in the war zone said on Sunday that the bodies of 378 people had been registered at his hospital and that many other corpses were lying outside. He said heavy arms appeared to have been fired from government-run territory into a mainly civilian area under Tamil Tiger rebel control. But the government said the Tigers had done the firing. The issue of civilian casualties is highly sensitive here and the state-owned Daily News on Monday makes no mention of the incident at all.

In New York the British Foreign Secretary David Miliband is to co-sponsor informal discussions with ministers and charities on the island's humanitarian situation. The Sri Lankan government is dismissive of calls from him and other diplomats for a ceasefire in the north. It says it's about to defeat the rebels permanently and that a ceasefire would not help civilians.

Charles Haviland, BBC News, Colombo

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Vocabulary

spokesman
someone (male or female) who is chosen by an organisation to speak officially to the public for it
civilians
people who are not members of the police or armed forces
bloodbath scenario
an extremely violent event in which a great number of people are killed
corpses
people's dead bodies
heavy arms
large weapons and equipment used to kill and injure people
government-run territory
land or area controlled by the government or state
civilian casualties
people injured or killed in an act of violence or an accident
co-sponsor
support by giving encouragement, time or money - along with somebody else
humanitarian
connected with improving people's lives and reducing suffering
dismissive
deciding that something or someone is not important and not worth considering
diplomats
people whose job is to officially represent one country while being in another
ceasefire
agreement to stop fighting to allow discussions about peace to happen

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