29 Jan 2009

UN evacuates hundreds from Sri Lanka war zone

9:21 pm on 29 January 2009

A United Nations convoy has evacuated hundreds of people wounded in fighting between Tamil Tiger rebels and the military in northern Sri Lanka.

Fears have been growing for thousands of civilians caught up in the conflict.

The UN says hundreds of people have been taken in convoy out of the war zone, including 50 critically wounded children.

Most of them have been hurt by shellfire, as Sri Lankan forces battle against the Tamil Tigers.

They had been trapped inside rebel controlled territory and the UN says the Tigers had delayed their departure.

But finally a brief pause in the fighting allowed the evacuation to take place. The wounded have been moved to a government hospital in Vavuniya.

Sri Lankan forces are fighting their way into the last strongholds held by the rebels after government troops took the last major town of Mullattivu.

An estimated 250,000 people are estimated to be trapped by the fighting, with the Red Cross saying hundreds have been killed.

India has sought assurances that civilians trapped by the fighting will be protected.