Desperation greets refugees in Sri Lanka camps

KANTALAI, Sri Lanka, Aug 6, 2006 (AFP) – B.M. Aliar stared helplessly at a mob of hungry refugees jostling for handouts as the first supplies trickled into a relief shelter on the edge of Sri Lanka’s strife-torn northeast. Aliar, a 50-year-old labourer, is among an estimated 20,000 Muslims who fled the town of Muttur near Trincomalee where Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels have been engaged in fierce fighting with government forces.

“We left our house, everything in Muttur,” Aliar told AFP as he begged for left-over curry for his wife and three young children. “We did not want to be killed. But we may starve here if no additional supplies arrive soon.”

Sri Lanka’s government accused the rebels of massacring at least 100 Muslims who were trying to escape from the fighting on Friday, but the Tigers denied the allegations and said it was the military that was committing atrocities.

The defence ministry has placed the official death toll in 11 days of fighting at at least 426, many of them thought to be civilians.

Aliar’s forehead is bandaged after he was wounded when mortar shells rained down on the mainly Muslim town of Muttur last week, destroying homes and shops, killing more than 30 and sparkin

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