Strangers in their own land, Tamil refugees in limbo amid rising violence

MALLAVI, Sri Lanka, July 6, 2006 (AFP) – Former vegetable vendor Dharmaselan lost his leg and arm in an aerial bombing over strife-torn northern Sri Lanka several years ago. But he says government soldiers did not believe him when they began harassing him again earlier this year as violence escalated in the region.

“The army kept stopping and asking me questions. They said I must be LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) because I had no leg,” said the 32 year-old father of five known only as Dharmaseelan, referring to the rebel fighters now skirmishing daily with government troops.

“I feared for my family, so I left.”

The vegetable seller from Jaffna district joined tens of thousands fleeing their homes amid tit-for-tat killings, disappearances and military operations that have killed more than 830 people since December amid a crumbling ceasefire.

Like many of the 10,000 people seeking refuge in rebel-held Wanni district, Dharmaselan has been shuffled from holding centres to this resettlement camp built along a desolate stretch of road an hour south of Kilinochchi town.

Dozens of thatch-roofed shacks have been put up in a clearing hacked out of the scru