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1 April 2009

Sri Lankan troops killed 34 members of the separatist rebel group the Tamil Tigers Thursday during fierce fighting in the island's north in a drive to end a 25-year-old civil war, the military said. Troops collected the bodies of 31 rebels after intense clashes near Puthukkudiyiruppu, the last township held by the Tamil Tigers inside a tiny, shrinking territory, military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said in Colombo. [...] Tens of thousands of civilians are trapped in the war zone. The military says the rebels are using them as human shields in a desperate attempt to avoid defeat. But the Tigers say the people do not want to leave and have asked for their protection. [...] The United States has donated $15,000 worth of food aid to Sri Lanka, sufficient to feed 300,000 displaced people for four months, the U.S. Embassy in Colombo said in a statement. The aid represents 21 per cent of the total food aid called for this year by the World Food Program, the statement quoted USAID Mission Director Rebecca Cohn as saying.


1 April 2009

There have been intense clashes between Sri Lankan security forces and Tamil Tigers in the country's north-east. The Sri Lankan defence ministry says troops have encircled scores of Tamil Tigers in a small stretch of land in Mullaitivu district. [...] Meanwhile, the World Food Programme says it has sent more than 1,000 tonnes of food to trapped civilians. [...] The World Food Programme says its food consignment on a government chartered ship comes amid increasing concern for civilians. "The government's timely provision of a large capacity vessel enabled WFP and other partners to ship this urgently needed assistance," said Adnan Khan, WFP country director for Sri Lanka. It is estimated that between 40,000 and 150,000 civilians are trapped in the conflict zone in the north-east.


27 March 2009

In a telephone conversation, Sri Lanka Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama has categorically stated that the Sri Lankan security forces do not direct any attacks on the Government declared no-fire zone along the Mullaitivu coast, notwithstanding the constant artillery barrage launched at the military by the LTTE. [...] Responding to a query by the Danish Foreign Minister with regard to the involvement of the UN and ICRC, Minister Bogollagama explained that the welfare transit villages were being assisted by the UN while the ICRC has been involved with the evacuation of civilians by sea. In addition, he referred to the involvement of the WFP and the ICRC in the transport of food and medical supplies by sea and their distribution to the civilians in the conflict area.


27 March 2009

The United Nations has expressed concerns over the safety of civilians, numbering as high as 190,000, trapped by fighting in northern Sri Lanka between the army and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). [...] Those uprooted by the fighting and are trapped in the no-fire zone have limited access to food, safe water, sanitation facilities and medical assistance, with the International Red Cross delivering a two-week supply of medicines aboard a ship to the zone and the World Food Programme (WFP) preparing to send 1,000 tons of food to the area.


18 March 2009

The World Food Program’s second major relief food consignment of 500 metric tonnes of mixed food commodities (rice, wheat, flour, lentils, sugar and vegetable oil) reached Puthumathalan, the Government designated ‘safe zone’ along the Northeastern coast of Mullaitivu, on a Government arranged ship sailing under ICRC flag. The food sent to the area will be sufficient to feed around 100,000 Internally Displaced Persons for a period of 10 days. Earlier, nearly 160 metric tonnes of mixed food was sent through smaller boats on multiple occasions, while on March 7, the first large consignment by sea of 500 metric tonnes was dispatched to the conflict zone after road convoys were discontinued in late January 2009.


18 March 2009

Sri Lanka faces a 'serious humanitarian crisis' and there is an urgent need to halt fighting at least briefly to rescue people in the war zone, according to the international Red Cross. There was also not enough food and medicines for the large mass of civilians in the conflict area, said Paul Castella, who heads the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Sri Lanka. [...] Castella, who has been in Sri Lanka since September 2008, acknowledged Colombo's role in providing health and other facilities for the civilians. But much more needed to be done. 'Food supplies are not enough. Both the government and the World Food Programme have contributed. Right now 500 tonnes are being unloaded, off Muallaitivu. 'It is good it has come. But food is very late, too little, and people are afraid to collect it (because of unending fighting),' he said.


17 March 2009

Intense fighting is going on between Sri Lankan troops and Tamil Tiger rebels in north-eastern Sri Lanka. The military says at least 36 rebels have been killed in ferocious battles in Mullaitivu district on Monday. Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says another ship with food items for civilians has reached the conflict zone. [...] "The ship arrived off the coast of Putumatalan in the north-east this morning (Tuesday) and has started to offload its supplies. It will take several days to finish the work," ICRC spokeswoman Sophie Romanens said. The World Food Programme, which has sent most of the food along with some government supplies, says 500 metric tonnes of food will be sufficient for a 100,000 people for about 10 days.


13 March 2009

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged that Sri Lanka is now on the verge of defeating terrorism, and that this presented a great opportunity to restore peace, leading to reconstruction and rehabilitation in the country, according to a statement issued by Sri Lanka's presidential office on Friday. She made the remarks when speaking to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse by telephone Friday evening, said the statement. [...] Rajapakse said there were about 50,000 to 70,000 people still remaining in a very small area held by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), where the LTTE was preventing the people leaving for safety outside. [...] The government was regularly sending food and medicines to all persons in the affected areas, including those held by the LTTE, with the assistance of the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) and the World Food Program, [he said].


12 March 2009

The UN has deplored the diversion of high-energy therapeutic food supplies intended for severely malnourished children to Liberation Tigers of Tamils Eelam (LTTE) fighters in combat zones in Sri Lanka’s north. A statement released on 11 March by the UN country office in Sri Lanka said that BP-100 high-energy biscuits found in the possession of a dead Tamil Tiger came from supplies targeted at severely malnourished children. “The UN deplores that such life-saving items, destined for severely malnourished children, were diverted from their intended purpose,” the statement said. [...] "The treatment of malnutrition among children remains a priority for Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Health, UNICEF and the World Food Programme.”


6 March 2009

The Sri Lankan government appealed Friday for tens of thousands of civilians to flee the northern war zone and said it would open two safe passages in the area for the exodus. [...] The United Nations cautiously welcomed the appeal. "Any additional measure to relieve the suffering of civilians is welcome," said U.N. spokesman Gordon Weiss. "Let's watch and see if this translates into an effective safe passage for trapped civilians." Aid groups estimate 200,000 civilians are squeezed into an area of less than 19 square miles (50 square kilometers). The government says the number is closer to 70,000.