News & Current Affairs

September 8, 2008

Sri Lanka bars foreign aid staff

Sri Lanka bars foreign aid staff

Tamils displaced by recent fighting

Tamils have been fleeing the fighting in the north and east of the island

Sri Lanka’s government has announced a ban on foreign aid workers and many of their local colleagues from working in Tamil-rebel held areas in the north.

Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said Colombo could no longer guarantee the safety of aid workers in the area.

Colombo has intensified its war against the Tamil Tigers in a drive to crush their decades-old separatist struggle.

Aid agencies have been helping some of an estimated 160,000 people displaced by the fighting in the north.

They have in the past voiced concern for tens of thousands of people who have fled the frontline and sought refuge from the violence deep inside rebel-held territory.

The agencies have yet to respond to the government’s announcement.

An estimated 85,000 people have fled their homes in the area since June, according to the United Nations.

‘Dangerous environment’

The government said the ban would apply to all foreign aid workers in rebel-held territory and to their local colleagues who were not permanently resident in the area.

“We can’t assure the security of these people,” Defense Secretary Rajapaksa told The Associated Press news agency. “We are taking precautions.”

Mr Rajapaksa said any people affected by the ban who were currently in the area should leave immediately.

He said his government wished to avoid a repeat of the murder in 2006 of 17 local employees of French aid agency, Action Against Hunger.

Sri Lanka’s government said Tamil rebels carried out the attack but international truce monitors said the killings were the work of the military.

A United Nations official last year described Sri Lanka as one of the world’s most dangerous environments for humanitarian workers, prompting an angry rebuttal from the government.

The Tamil Tigers have been fighting for a separate homeland in the north and east for 25 years.

More than 70,000 people have died in the conflict.

Do you work for an NGO in northern Sri Lanka? Are you affected by this announcement? Send us your experiences.

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June 4, 2008

Sri Lanka commuters hit by bomb

A packed commuter train in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, has been hit by a bomb, the military says. At least 17 people were injured.

The bomb exploded seconds after the last carriage of the train had passed by, according to the army website.

The incident happened at 0710 local time as the train was passing between Wellawatte and Dehiwela districts.

Last week the Tamil Tigers were blamed for a bomb attack at Dehiwela station that left at least eight dead.

Office workers

The injured from Wednesday’s attack were taken to nearby hospitals.

“The train was packed. There were about 1,500, passengers, mostly office workers travelling… to the city,” the train’s driver told the AFP news agency.

Police said the bomb had been planted on another track parallel to the one the train was using.

There have been a number of bomb attacks in Colombo recently blamed on the Tamil Tigers.

In February, 11 people died in a suicide attack at Colombo’s main train station.

In northern Sri Lanka the military is carrying out an offensive aimed at crushing the rebels by the end of this year.

The Tigers have fought for a generation for an independent state for the Tamil minority in the island’s north and east.

About 70,000 people have been killed since the civil war began in 1983.

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