Wounded trapped in Sri Lankan war zone

The Tamil Tigers blocked a convoy carrying hundreds of wounded people from leaving the site of heavy fighting in Sri Lanka's north, the United Nations said yesterday.

The Tigers denied travel permission for the UN convoy, forcing it to turn back. Sri Lankan troops have made dramatic advances in recent days, cornering the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in a 100sq-mile area.

The advance by government troops has led many to forecast an end to the long-running conflict. But the UN and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) say 250,000 civilians are also trapped in the area, including those wounded by the fighting.

The UN, ICRC, United States and European Union have demanded the Sri Lankan army and LTTE keep civilians safe. But combatants are increasingly trading blame over deaths and injuries, which the ICRC says are in the hundreds.

The UN said yesterday it would try again to move the hundreds of seriously wounded out of the war zone and into a government hospital soon, after its first attempt failed.

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