Food aid reaches besieged Sri Lanka town amid lull in fighting

Nov 29, 2006 (AFP) – A convoy of food on Wednesday reached 40,000 people trapped by weeks of heavy fighting in the island’s restive east as artillery exchanges died down, a relief official said. The first 20 trucks out of more than 100 vehicles arrived at the rebel-held town of Vakarai bringing food and medical supplies for the first time in a month, the official said.

Nordic truce monitors, the International Committee of the Red Cross and international relief agencies sent representatives to supervise the operation after weeks of haggling over security guarantees for the convoy.

The aid was due to arrive Tuesday, but was held up by heavy artillery fire across a de facto front line in the region.

The government military and Tamil Tiger rebels blamed each other for initiating the exchanges.

The defence ministry said the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) fired artillery and mortar bombs blocking the convoy of 115 vehicles on Tuesday.

The Tigers said the military started the firing.

At least 65 people were killed when security forces shelled suspected LTTE gun positions in the area earlier this month.

The army later expressed regret at the civilian deaths.

The nor