TRINCOMALEE, Sri Lanka, Aug 8, 2006 (AFP) – Sri Lanka troops launched fresh artillery attacks against Tamil Tigers from bases in this port city Tuesday, as grieving relatives prepared to bury aid workers killed in the conflict.
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An estimated 60,000 people have been killed since the Tamil insurgency began in 1972. The bodies of 17 employees of French charity Action Against Hunger (Action Contre la Faim, ACF) were brought to the main hospital in Trincomalee as heavy gunfire boomed in the distance.
The battle for access to water from a disputed irrigation dam in northeastern Trincomalee district has raged for two weeks, leaving at least 440 people dead by official count.
The defence ministry said that security forces were keeping up “Operation Watershed” to lift the rebel blockade which has deprived water to some 15,000 farming families.
The aid workers were killed when the fighting which began near the irrigation dam spread to the coastal town of Muttur, where a major battle erupted last week.
An airforce trooper was killed in a suspected Tiger attack Tuesday while three people who escaped with injuries were brought to the same hospital where the bodies of the aid workers were being identified, officials said.