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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September 1, 2008

‘Scores dead’ in S Lanka fighting

Filed under: Latest — Tags: , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 12:28 pm

‘Scores dead’ in S Lanka fighting

Tamil Tigers

The Tigers have been waging a decades-old war against Colombo

Forty two Tamil Tiger rebels have been killed in fresh fighting with security forces in Sri Lanka, the military says.

Five soldiers were also killed in battles which took place on frontlines in the north of the island on Sunday.

The military has advanced rapidly into rebel-controlled territory to crush the rebels and end their fight for a separate state for the Tamil minority.

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 fighting.

Sunday was a heavy day of fighting in northern Sri Lanka, according to the military’s spokesman Brig Udaya Nanayakkara.

He said soldiers were trying to inflict the maximum number of casualties on the Tamil Tigers.

Surge in fighting

The bloodiest battle of the day was in Vavuniya, he said, where 18 rebels were killed as well as one soldier.

In Kilinochchi district, troops captured 500 metres of the Tigers’ defences and killed another seven rebels. Three soldiers died there.

And in government-controlled Anuradhapura special forces troops killed what Brig Nanayakkara described as 10 rebels who were trying to infiltrate, with the loss of one soldier.

There were more confrontations in Mullaitivu, and Jaffna, also in the north.

The Tamil Tigers have not commented on the military’s claims – with journalists barred from the conflict zone they cannot be independently verified.

Fighting has intensified in Sri Lanka in recent months as soldiers have advanced, aiming to crush the rebels and win the war which began a generation ago.

Tens of thousands of people have fled further in Tiger-controlled areas.

Over the weekend the rebels said the military had fired a shell which killed five civilians in a makeshift camp, including two small children.

The military denied the accusation.

August 17, 2008

S Lankan army ‘takes rebel base’

S Lankan army ‘takes rebel base’

Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka

The Tamil Tigers have seen a string of reverses this year

Sri Lanka’s military say they have captured a training complex of the Tamil Tiger rebel group, complete with 100 underground bunkers.

The government says its forces are now 15km (nine miles) from Kilinochchi, the rebels’ administrative hub.

There is concern over tens of thousands of people displaced by the fighting who are converging on the town.

In recent weeks, Sri Lankan troops have broken through the Tamil Tigers’ defenses in the north of the island.

They have taken control of towns, villages and bases.

On Saturday soldiers captured a rebel training complex in Welioya after Tiger fighters fled the area.

Military spokesman Brig Udaya Nanayakkara said it contained lecture halls as well as the bunkers.

Thousands flee

In fighting elsewhere across the north on Saturday, the military says 27 rebels and seven soldiers were killed.

BBC map

Repeated attempts to contact the Tigers by phone and e-mail have gone unanswered in recent days.

Government officials have said they aim to defeat the rebels before the year is out and end the island’s 25-year civil war.

The United Nations estimates up to 75,000 people have fled the fighting since the start of June and many have converged on the town.

Cabinet Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said the forces were holding back in some areas while the government considered how to get the civilians out.

He accused the Tigers of using them as a human shield.

Relatively few civilians have crossed into government-controlled areas and last week Amnesty International alleged the government was putting those who have into what they called “de facto detention centres”.

August 14, 2008

Thousands flee homes in Sri Lanka

Thousands flee homes in Sri Lanka

Courtesy BBC

By Roland Buerk
BBC News, Colombo

Displaced people in northern Sri Lanka

People are leaving their village homes

Up to 75,000 people have fled their homes in northern Sri Lanka in the last two and a half months, the UN says.

This adds to huge numbers of people already displaced by years of war in the troubled island.

Government forces are advancing into territory controlled by the Tamil Tiger rebels, who want an independent state for the island’s ethnic Tamil minority.

The UN is calling for continued access to those who have been displaced to avoid a humanitarian crisis.

Military claims

Sri Lanka’s government does not allow journalists to go to the areas where the conflict is taking place.

But what is clear is that the military is now moving forward at a rapid pace.

People are living under trees in northern Sri Lanka

People recently displaced are living in the open air under trees

For months the fighting in the north was taking place on largely static front lines. Now village after village, and rebel base after rebel base, according to the ministry of defence, is falling into government hands.

On Wednesday soldiers took control of Mulankavil, which the ministry of defence described as a Tamil Tiger garrison town.

It added that the forces were now within 15km of Kilinochchi town, the rebels’ administrative hub.

The UN says as many as a third of the entire population of the rebel areas have abandoned their homes since the start of June.

“I think a lot depends on what happens over the next few weeks,” said Neil Buhne, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sri Lanka.

“If we are able to have continued access in terms of humanitarian supplies to these people, if there is safe space for the civilians in that area, if both sides respect their responsibility to allow displaced people to move where they want to move they I think a crisis can be avoided.”

Mr Buhne estimated between a quarter and half of the people recently displaced are living in the open air under trees.

Funerals

Sri Lanka’s government says it is on the brink of victory in a war that began a generation ago.

Last July it announced the Tigers had been driven from areas they controlled in the east of the island.

Provincial elections have since been held there.

Now the forces are advancing into the north.

It is impossible to get independent confirmation of the military’s progress, and the high casualties they claim to be inflicting on the rebels.

But people living in Tiger-held areas say large numbers of funerals are taking place, coffins draped in rebel flags carried on the back of pick up trucks to graveyards.

‘Liberation activity’

And they speak of a palpable slump in morale, even though the Tigers have reversed military advances in earlier phases of the war.

On their website the Tigers wrote that indiscriminate bombing and shelling is forcing people to leave their settlements.

And they issued an urgent call to people in areas they control to dig bunkers in their homes and workplaces.

“The [ethnic majority] Sinhala nation is intent on occupying and enslaving the Tamil homeland,” the rebels said in one statement.

“Our military is only involved in a war of self defence against this war of the Sinhala nation.”

Displaced Tamil in Vavuniya

Many Tamil civilians are trapped between the warring sides

But the government insists Tamils being displaced now will be better off if the rebels are defeated.

“We are on a liberation activity,” said Keheliya Rambukwella, the government’s defence spokesman.

“We will liberate the north, sooner than people even think. When you need to look at a bigger target, a bigger goal, you need to make certain sacrifices down the line. And these are the sacrifices and for these sacrifices we are not going to let them down.”

The government alleges the Tamil Tigers could be planning to use civilians in the north as human shields.

Very few have crossed into government-controlled areas, but the United Nations says there has no been no prevention of movement to keep them in Tiger-held territory.

The displaced people are converging on Kilinochchi likely to be a key battleground as Sri Lanka’s government continues to try to win the war.

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