Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Sri Lanka Bars Foreign Aid Workers from Rebel Area

by Ravi Nessman, Associated Press, September 8, 2008

With the fighting escalating, aid groups have expressed concern for the welfare of the tens of thousands of civilians who have fled their homes near the front lines in recent weeks and moved deeper into rebel territory.

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – The Sri Lankan government said Monday it is barring all foreign aid workers and many local staff from rebel-held areas in the north because of the raging civil war there.

The decision came as the government stepped up its offensive aimed at crushing the Tamil Tiger rebel group and capturing its de facto state after a quarter century of civil war.

With the fighting escalating, aid groups have expressed concern for the welfare of the tens of thousands of civilians who have fled their homes near the front lines in recent weeks and moved deeper into rebel territory.

Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said Monday the government decided to order all foreign aid workers from the territory under rebel control for their own protection.

"We can't assure the security of these people," Rajapaksa told The Associated Press. "We are taking precautions."

The impact the announcement will have on aid work in the impoverished and war-torn areas of the north was not immediately clear. The United Nations and the U.S. government declined to comment, and officials from international aid groups said they were working on a coordinated response.