LTTE warns of Genocide as UN Agencies Pull Out
13 September 2008
COLOMBO (AFP) — Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers on Saturday accused the government of
planning a genocidal campaign against Tamils as UN agencies pulled out of
rebel-held regions in the island's north.
UN agencies started exiting on Friday after Colombo said it could not guarantee
the safety of aid workers as troops pushed towards the Wanni region, which
comprises Kilinochchi and Mullaittivu districts.
People in Kilinochchi have protested the departure of UN agencies from the Wanni
region, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said in statement.
Residents had gathered outside the offices of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and
the World Food Programme, said the rebels, who have been fighting to carve out
an independent homeland in the island's north and east since 1972.
They were "demanding the agencies should stay behind and continue their
humanitarian work for the Wanni people facing a humanitarian crisis," the rebels
"The appeals (from residents) mostly said the Sri Lankan government is ordering
the international agencies out as it readies for the final stage of the genocide
of the Tamils," the rebels said.
There was no immediate government reaction to the charges.
But the government said earlier in the week it wanted to avoid troops being
accused of killing aid workers, in a repeat of the August 2006 massacre of 17
local employees of the French aid agency Action Against Hunger, as it presses on
with its offensive against the rebels.
UN agencies say at least 160,000 people have been displaced in the past few
months in Mullaittivu and Kilinochchi. Some 70,000 people have fled due to
fighting in the past two months alone.
Sri Lanka's privately-run National Peace Council on Saturday warned against
withdrawing aid agencies, saying it would "create a vacuum that the government
alone cannot fill".
According to the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies, 11 UN and other agencies
have been working in the rebel-held Wanni area.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka's defence secretary on Saturday told thousands of people
living in the capital "without any valid reason" to return to their villages,
calling them a national security threat.
Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse said thousands of people arrive in Colombo
each month from other parts of the war-torn nation, many of them ethnic Tamils
fleeing fighting in the north, according to state-run media.
"It is an immense problem for the security forces to provide security. The LTTE
mingles with these people to infiltrate these areas," he said.
Colombo came under intense pressure from international human rights activists in
June 2007, when hundreds of Tamils were evicted from the city and told to return
to their villages, some in conflict areas.
They were later taken back to the city after the Supreme Court intervened on
Elsewhere, violence flared with eight Tiger rebels and two troops killed in
fighting on Friday and Saturday, the defence ministry said.
The latest clashes raised the number of rebels killed by troops since January to
6,522, while 634 soldiers have lost their lives during the same period,
according to a ministry toll.
Tens of thousands of people have died on both sides during more than three
decades of bloodshed