Sri Lankan army shells hit hospital

A hospital in Sri Lanka's war zone was hit twice by artillery attacks yesterday, killing at least six civilians.

Dr Thurairajah Varatharajah said the shells in the later attack appeared to have been fired by the Sri Lankan army and killed five. He said they caused extensive damage to Puthukkudiyiruppu hospital, one of the last functioning health institutions inside rebel-held territory.

The Red Cross said the earlier artillery attack killed two people. It did not say which side fired. Dr Varatharajah said one person was killed. The military spokesman, Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara, did not answer calls seeking comment.

The attack on the hospital came amid reports of growing casualties among Tamil civilians trapped with the rebels inside a tiny patch of jungle and villages. The Red Cross estimates 250,000 are in the area, while the government says the number is smaller.

The Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, also warned that Western diplomats, journalists and aid groups would be "chased" out of the country if they appear to favor the rebels. Singling out the ambassadors of Germany and Switzerland and the BBC, CNN and al-Jazeera, the Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, said they would be expelled if they were found to have favoured the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. "They will be chased away [if they try] to give a second wind to the LTTE," the brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, said.

The rebels suffered more losses as troops captured two camps for the Black Tigers, the rebels' suicide squad, and recovered the bodies of 12 rebels.