Sri Lankan Tigers block UN staff from leaving

January 22, 2009 (AFP) – The United Nations Thursday accused Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers of preventing its staff from leaving rebel-controlled areas in the north of the island. The UN said several of its local staff and their families were prevented from leaving Thursday with a convoy that had earlier taken food and emergency supplies to displaced people inside rebel territory.

“The UN calls on the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) to meet their responsibilities and immediately permit all UN staff and dependants to freely move from this area,” it said.

Sri Lanka ordered aid workers out of the region last September as heavy fighting raged and troops advanced to dislodge the rebels from their final strongholds.

The government later allowed UN relief convoys to distribute some aid to 300,000 civilians in the rebel areas.

After months of intense battles, security forces have confined the LTTE to the jungle and lagoon district of Mullaittivu, where they are known to have several military bases.