ICRC says relief effort fails in Sri Lanka

Aug 4, 2006 (AFP) – The International Committee of the Red Cross said Friday it had failed to get relief to thousands of civilians trapped by fierce fighting between Sri Lankan forces and Tamil Tiger rebels. “We have not been able to achieve the humanitarian corridor we wanted to establish for us to move freely and care for the affected people in Muttur,” he said.

The ICRC had received credible reports, he added, that thousands of people were taking whatever transport they could and were fleeing Muttur to the nearest safer town of Kantalai.

“We do not have access to Muttur but we have already sent an ambulance, three jeeps and three buses to Kantalai for the use of these people if they need to travel beyond Kantalai,” Rockwood said.

At least 22 civilians have been killed by artillery fire in Muttur since Thursday with the security forces and Tamil Tigers each blaming the other for hitting local residents. The Red Cross had sought security guarantees from the government and the rebels to allow it to reach civilians in northeastern Muttur town where fighting but could not get agreement, ICRC spokesman Sukumar Rockwood said.