Sri Lankan Muslims say fighting has further marginalized them

KANTALAI, Sri Lanka, Aug 12, 2006 (AFP) – At an overcrowded mosque in Sri Lanka’s northeast, thousands of Muslim refugees displaced by fighting between government troops and Tiger rebels gather to console each other.

His message blared from megaphones outside the mosque, but the men were not easily placated, demanding protection from the government, and wondering aloud why international humanitarian agencies had been slow to help, despite the presence of a few non-governmental organisations.

“There are still about 6,000 people left behind in Muttur, who can’t leave because they have livestock and property to protect. We have reached them but they need more food and assistance too,” said M.A. Mohammed Saleem, an adviser to the UK-based Muslim Aid agency.

The agency was among the first to respond to the refugee crisis along with the US-based United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).

“There are so many refugees here. We are trying to help them out, but the infrastructure isn’t enough just to accommodate them,” he said, noting the limited presence of other relief agencies.

“These people want to go home, but they can’t. Over and above their personal losses, many of them feel that they are mar