New clashes in Sri Lanka as foreigners head for safety

Aug 27, 2006 (AFP) – The Red Cross ferried 150 foreign nationals to safety from the embattled Jaffna peninsula Sunday as the Sri Lankan military claimed fresh fighting left 12 Tamil Tiger rebels dead. Aid agencies complained they have been unable to reach many of the 200,000 who have fled fighting from across the island’s northeast since May. The ferry docked at the port of Trincomalee in the country’s northeast in the early hours to the sound of nearby shelling between rebels and security forces, evacuees said.

The 152 passengers included workers on tsunami-related projects pulled out by aid agencies because of the ongoing clashes.

Passengers spoke of relief at leaving amid food shortages and communication problems as sporadic fighting continued on the peninsula where 40,000 have fled their homes in the worst violence since the 2002 ceasefire.

“People are a bit resigned. My colleagues… said they have experienced this (fighting) for 25 years but since 2002 life was much better,” said Alexis Adam, 35, a French aid worker for the Caritas charity via mobile phone.

“Some mentioned to me: ‘this is life for us’ but for four years they had got used to another kind of life — so it’s very dif