ICRC 'not involved in convoy crossing'

[TamilNet, Thursday, 29 July 1999, 10:58 GMT]
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was at no stage involved in the organisation or escort of the convoy which transported the Vanni residents who have been stranded in Vavuniya since last month due to the closure of the access route to the areas held by the Liberation Tigers said the organisation's spokesman in Colombo, Mr.Harasha Gunawardena this afternoon.

He told TamilNet that the ICRC was neither approached by the Governemt Agent of Vavuniya, K. Ganesh or by the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) for organising or escorting the convoy of buses that took about 2200 residents of the Vanni to the Forward Defence Line at Moondumurippu-Nattaangkandal.

Mr. Gunawardena said "there has been no agreement on the part of the army or the Liberation Tigers on the question of opening a safe passage so far".

Yesterday, the SLA Chief of Staff and the Commander of Vanni region, General Lionel Balagalle said the LTTE opened fire when the vehicles carrying the first batch of returnees were sent across.

"First batch of 15 civilians were sent to cross the border when the LTTE opened fire. Therefore the second batch of 75 people were not sent. Three people out of the fifteen are detained by the LTTE and the rest were allowed come back to the cleared area. Now all the civilians are returning to Vavuniya" he said.

Sources close to the LTTE said that the Tigers had not been informed of the returnees impending arrival at Moondumurippu by either the Government Agents or the ICRC as is customary.

According to the sources, the civilians had arrived in the area and been heading into towards a minefield.

The LTTE had fired warning shots and the civilians had gone back to SLA lines, they said.

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