Aug 25, 2006 (AFP) – A food relief ship began unloading in northern Sri Lanka Friday to lift a two-week siege of the Jaffna peninsula as fresh clashes left five rebels dead, the defence ministry said. Workers began the slow task of unloading 1,500 tonnes of food for the 350,000 civilians trapped by fierce fighting between government forces and Tamil Tigers as all roads remained blocked to the peninsula.
The United Nations said it had not persuaded the Sri Lankan government to allow it to take food into some areas held by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), as the number of those who fled their homes topped 200,000.
A Red Cross ferry left to pick up 150 foreigners trapped in the area, where some 650 people died in 11 days of fighting that flared on August 11, according to defence ministry figures.
The ferry was expected to leave the peninsula early Saturday bound for the northeastern port of Trincomalee.
Officials hope to make further trips to collect the remainder of up to 500 foreign passport holders, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.
Many were of Sri Lankan origin and were visiting relatives.
The UN and aid agencies had warned of dwindling supplies on