UN to pull out its aid workers from LTTE-held areasSeptember 9th, 2008 - 7:55 pm ICT by IANS
Colombo, Sep 9 (IANS) The United Nations Tuesday said it would pull out its staff from the rebel-held northern region of Wanni in Sri Lanka for security reasons, after a request by the government. “The UN in Sri Lanka acknowledges the announcement by the government of Sri Lanka that they can no longer ensure the safety of aid workers in Wanni, and their request that UN and NGO staff should relocate to government-controlled territory,” a UN office statement said.
Sri Lanka Monday requested the local and international aid workers to vacate Tamil Tiger-held territory at the earliest, virtually indicating the preparation for a major push against the rebels in their last Wanni bastions.
Officials Monday said the government had informed the aid agencies that it was “not in a position to guarantee their safety given the present situation” and wanted them to leave Wanni immediately with all their resources for their own safety.
Claiming that the UN was now evaluating its operations in the rebel-held areas with a view to relocating humanitarian staff, the UN statement said a precise timetable “for the complete withdrawal of all staff is yet to be determined, but relocations will begin this week”.
The UN statement has come at a time when fierce fighting is raging in the northern Wanni region between the advancing government troops and the rebels.
Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi are the only two districts in Sri Lanka that remains under the control of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for the past two decades.
The military, which captured the north-western Mannar district last month, declared last week that the advancing troops were now operating just 12 km away from the rebel-heartland of Kilinochchi and offered civilians a safe passage to move into the government-held areas.
Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said displacement of tens of thousands of civilians in the rebel-held areas continued to take place due to intensifying fighting between forces and the LTTE, and expressed its determination to stay on with the people in need of humanitarian aid.
“The ICRC calls on both parties to the conflict to do their utmost to spare civilians the effects of ongoing hostilities. We are committed to staying close to those in need of humanitarian aid and to meeting their most urgent needs regardless of whether they seek refuge in government or LTTE-controlled areas,” ICRC’s head of delegation for Sri Lanka Toon Vandenhove said in a statement Tuesday.