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Last updated: 20 January, 2009 - Published 14:36 GMT
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No civilians killed - government
Minister Samarasinghe in a press conference (library photo)
Minister accused the BBC of carrying out 'false reports' on civilian casualties
Sri Lanka government says that not a single civilian was killed in the conflict between government forces and the LTTE in Mullaitvu district.

Minister in charge of Human Rights, Mahinda Samarasinghe, accused the BBC of carrying out 'false information' on the civilian casualties in the battle field in northern Sri Lanka.

Medical staff in the north told BBC on Sunday that at least 18 civilians have been killed during the weekend as the military continues its offensive on the northern bases of the LTTE.

Hospital officials said the number killed in fighting around Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu could be much higher.

BBC accused

Military spokesman, Brig Udaya Nanayakkara told BBC Sandeshaya that the allegation was Tamil Tiger propaganda.

Minister Samarasinghe told journalists in Colombo that media should verify information they receive from hospitals in Vanni with health ministry officials in Colombo.

 Only once, two patients have sustained minor injuries after a shell, he does not know from which side, fell on the hospital
Dr. Athula Kahandaliyanage, Secretary to Health Ministry

"I request not only the BBC but also other media to contact the secretary to the health ministry," he said.

Dr. Athula Kahandaliyanage, secretary to the ministry of health, pointed out that although the BBC usually contacts him, there was no call from the BBC on this particular incident.

On Monday, An official at Pudukdiyiruppu hospital said that two patients died as a result of security services not permitting them to be transferred to Vavuniya hospital.

Kanthasamy Dharmakulasingham told BBC Sandeshaya that they sought permission to transfer 46 critical patients to Vavuniya hospital.

They were among 56 people who sustained injuries on Sunday in shell attacks on Redbana and Mungal Aru villages in Mullaitivu district, he said.

Dr. Kahandaliyanage, however, rejected the BBC report.

He was told on Friday by an unnamed source, Dr. Kahandaliyanage said, that not a single patient was harmed due to military operations.

"Only once, two patients have sustained minor injuries after a shell, he does not know from which side, fell on the hospital," he said.

An ICRC official also confirmed that not a single patient was killed in attacks, he added.

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