UN: 52 civilians killed, 80 hurt in Sri Lanka war

At least 52 civilians were killed in the past day's fighting between Tamil rebels and government forces in northern Sri Lanka, and cluster bombs struck the war zone's last functioning hospital Wednesday, the UN said. The strikes occurred as the country marked its 61st Independence Day with a grand military parade and a speech by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who declared that the military has nearly crushed the 25-year Tamil rebellion for a separate homeland. UN spokesman Gordon Weiss told reporters that 52 civilians were killed and 80 wounded in fighting Tuesday inside and outside a government-designated safe zone where it had pledged not to strike. The fighting is concentrated in a sliver of coastal land, known as Vanni, where an estimated 250,000 Tamil civilians are trapped along with the last of the Tamil Tiger rebels, who now appear on the verge of defeat after a fruitless civil war since 1983 to create a separate homeland for the country's minority Tamils.