LTTE slammed for not allowing UN staff to return from Wanni

January 22nd, 2009 - 6:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Jan 22 (IANS) The United Nations Thursday strongly condemned the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for not allowing its staff members to return from the rebel-held northern Wanni area and urged them to be released immediately.The UN office here in a statement Thursday “issued its strongest possible protest to the LTTE for their refusal to allow UN national staff and dependents to return from the Wanni with the present UN convoy” carrying food and other essential items to the people in the rebel-held areas.

“The staff are part of a UN convoy which travelled to the Wanni Friday 16 January delivering urgent food and emergency supplies to displaced populations. Due to fighting between the LTTE and government forces, this convoy has only been able to move safely today,” the UN statement said.

The present convoy is the eleventh to take supplies to those people trapped in the midst of fighting in the Wanni. Since early October, the UN convoys have brought approximately 7,000 tonnes of vital food and relief supplies to displaced population in the north.

Urging the LTTE to meet their responsibilities and immediately permit all UN staff and dependants to freely move from this area, the UN statement said that the LTTE’s “denial of safe passage is a clear abrogation of their obligations under international humanitarian law”.

Since January, the troops have captured major LTTE strongholds including Kilinochchi, Paranthan, Elephant Pass and Muhamalai along the A-9 Jaffna-Kandy main highway and have taken full control of the 325 km long highway after 23 years.

Encouraged by the fall of the strongholds of the LTTE one after another in quick succession, the troops have now boxed the rebels in a small chunk in the largely jungle district of Mullaitivu.

Despite shrinking territories, the rebels were offering stiff resistance to the troops advancing from various directions.

There was no immediate comment from the LTTE, which has been fighting against the Sri Lankan government for a quarter century to carve out a separate state for Tamils in the northern and eastern parts of the island.

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