Frustrated relief workers demand protection in Sri Lanka

KALLAR, Sri Lanka, Aug 7, 2006 (AFP) – Tired and hungry aid workers labor ceaselessly in crowded refugee camps on the edge of Sri Lanka’s conflict zone amid the thundering sound of artillery. “We will not go to Muttur unless we deem it safe.” Their steely resolve gives hope to nearly 30,000 people displaced by heavy fighting between Tiger rebels and government forces, but news that 15 of their colleagues were killed has outraged them to a point that they are now demanding protection.

“This is plainly a crime, not only to us but to those we serve,” said Guy Hovey, head of delegation for the US-based United Methodist Committee on Relief which has been working to evacuate people since the fresh conflict began.

The killings of 15 employees of French agency Action Against Hunger (ACF) is an atrocity that could complicate efforts to bring aid to some 5,000 people trapped in the town of Muttur.

More than 425 people have been killed in the latest round of fighting according to an official count.

“We’re non-combatants and we can’t operate if we are attacked. We would like some form of security guarantee or safe passage,” from both sides, Hovey told AFP as his staff tended to scores of c