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Associated Press kills story about civilians deaths after realizing they were subjected to a hoax

Associated Press kills story about civilians deaths after realizing they were subjected to a hoax

(By: Walter Jayawardhana)

The Associated Press in a notice sent to all its client publications requested to kill the Sri Lanka war story that said 300 civilians have been killed and 1000 other civilians have been injured after realizing that they have been subjected to a hoax.

In the notice the Associated Press said, "Kill the Sri Lanka-Civil War story, V5414. The source denies he wrote the letter that said more than 300 civilians had been killed and 1,000 wounded in fighting in northern Sri Lanka."

Most of the Western news agencies have been subjected to the hoax of a letter purported to have been written by a Medical administrative doctor in the form of an urgent appeal letter emailed to news agencies embassies and aid agencies etc.

Dr. Varatharaja, the Regional Director of Health Services (RDGS) Mullaitivu, who is purported to be the originator of this "appeal" has denied any association with it, and states its contents are false and exaggerated; that it has not originated from him or his office, and that he does not agree with its contents, and that this "appeal" circulated in order to embarrass him.

An official Sri Lanka government statement said, "This is issued as an "URGENT APPEAL to the Government of Sri Lanka, the ICRC, the UN and the international community for medical supplies and medical teams to be sent to the Mullaitivu district." This false appeal refers to an "acute shortage of essential drugs and medical personnel in hospitals in the Mullaitivu District", aims at showing a major humanitarian catastrophe in the area.

This false "appeal" refers to "heavy fighting and continuous multi-barrel artillery shelling has resulted in more than that 300 internally displaced persons being killed and over 1000 'hundred' injured in Suthanthirapuram, Udaiyaarkaddu and Vallipuram in the Mullaitivu District".

A Sri Lanka government Health Ministry official said, "I must mention here that the first quarter drugs to these districts have been dispatched by the Ministry on priority even before the other districts were supplied.

Furthermore, I wish to state with utmost responsibility that I have been contacted by Dr. Vartharaja twice today, 27/1/2009 and he has categorically denied that the above mentioned public appeal has been made by him or originated from his office and he further stated that he does not agree with the contents of this appeal and that its contents are false and exaggerated in order to embarrass him. However, he requested me to expedite the delivery of the first quarter drugs from Vavuniya as the stocks were getting depleted.

"He further said that he does not have access to e-mail or fax facility to release such a statement and expressed his dismay and concern about it. It is therefore obvious that this has been done by destructive elements with sinister motives who want to embarrass the government and implicate Dr. Varatharaja with false propaganda. He also sought advice from me as to what he should do when the troops advanced towards the Pudukkudiyiruppu hospital. I advised him to move into the cleared areas with the patients to which request he very clearly replied that the LTTE has not given him permission to do so and that he feared to do it without their permission".

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