On the verge of total defeat, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam on Thursday said that nearly 165,000 civilians in the areas controlled by it were close to starvation and accused Sri Lankan authorities of blocking food and humanitarian supplies to the area.
Comparing the humanitarian crisis in the 10 sq km swath of coastal land in Pudukudiyyiruppu to the Dafur crisis in Sudan, the LTTE in a statement asked the United Nations and other international aid groups to intervene promptly to prevent a catastrophe.
"We fear that further delay can result in a crisis similar to that faced in Darfur or even deadlier," it said in the statement, released by the pro-LTTE website TamilNet.com. Welcoming the dispatch of United Nations Humanitarian chief John Holmes to Colombo, the rebels said they were "prepared to engage in a constructive dialogue to address the humanitarian crisis in Wanni."
The figures given by the LTTE were the first about the number of Tamil civilians still trapped in the areas controlled by it, while Colombo had put the figure between 10,000 and 15,000. However, the United Nations has estimated that the number of civilians in the conflict zone is nearly 50,000.
The LTTE said that in the last few months, the Sri Lankan regime has blocked food supplies through land and sea. "The supply routes have been deliberately targeted by artillery and mortars. The occupation of Pudhukudiyyiruppu and surrounded areas has made supply of food by land impossible. Delivery by sea is the only option for supplies to the people living in LTTE controlled areas," it said.
Terming the blockade as 'systematic and deliberate', the LTTE said denial of food, medicine and other medical supplies was a 'serious breach' of the international humanitarian laws and a war crime that falls within the international crime of genocide.