Sri Lanka gets US help to clear mines

Sept 09, 2009 (LBO) – The United States military’s Pacific Command is providing training and equipment to the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) to helps it clear landmines in the island’s former war zone, the US embassy said. This training will build additional SLA capacity to clear mines in the Northern Province and expedite the safe return of displaced people to their homes and livelihoods, it said in a statement.

The US and other Western governments have been pressing Sri Lanka to resettle without further delay thousands of minority Tamil civilians now confined to refugee camps after they fled the war zone when fighting ended in May.

Government forces defeated the Tamil Tigers in May but the government says it is holding the civilians in camps till it weeds out Tamil rebels hiding among them and till their villages are cleared of land mines.

Western governments have been highly critical of the continued confinement of civilians in camps which are over-crowded and lack basic facilities.

The US embassy statement said the demining training is being conducted at the Sri Lanka School of Military Engineering (SLSME) at Embilipitiya in the south.

The US team is sharing its experiences and best p