Civilians flee into rebel areas as Sri Lanka government advances
Mon August 25, 2008 05:46 EDT .
Colombo (dpa) - Fighting between Sri Lankan government forces and members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) movement is causing a humanitarian crisis as civilians flee from their homes into rebel-held territory in the north of the country, local officials said on Monday.
Clashes to the south of the town of Kilinochchi, 320 kilometres north of the capital Colombo, have intensified in recent weeks as government forces continue a push to win back territory held by Tamil rebels.
Kilinochchi, which is currently held by the LTTE, has seen an influx of civilians seeking refuge from the fighting. The government estimates that 175,000 displaced people are currently in the city.
Chief government administrative officer for Kilincohchi, A Vedhanayagam, told local press that he was facing problems in providing additional food supplies for the newly displaced people. The number of refugees has increased by 50,000 in the past four weeks.
``The World Food Programme was issuing rice, flour, dhal, sugar and oil, but now that the number of displaced has risen we are only distributing rice as the stocks supplied to us are insufficient,'' Vedhanayagam was quoted as saying in Colombo's The Sunday Times newspaper.
``We are expecting more supplies within the coming weeks, but we are not sure when exactly the food convoys would come,'' he said.
Government troops faced heavy resistance on Sunday from the rebels as fighting continued in the southern part of Kilinochchi, a Defence Ministry spokesman said.
With anticipation that troops would step up operations aimed at capturing Kilinochchi town more civilians have started leaving their homes and heading further north.
Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said that troops were now 12 kilometres south of Kilinochchi town after weeks of fierce fighting with the rebels, who have been using the town as their administrative hub.
On Sunday the government won a crucial provincial election held in two of the country's nine provinces, which they called an ``endorsement'' to carry on with the military offensive aimed at recapturing the rebel held areas.
Since January 2008 the Sri Lankan government has stepped up its efforts to militarily defeat the Tamil rebel forces, which have waged a secessionist campaign in the north and east of the country since the 1970s. dpa ad jbl dsDiscuss this story
Published: Mon Aug 25 06:54:30 EDT 2008