(AFP) – Oct 16, 2008
COLOMBO (AFP) — Sri Lanka's military on Thursday stepped up attacks against suspected Tamil Tiger positions in the island's north and accused the rebels of blocking a UN-escorted food convoy.
The UN's World Food Programme was escorting a convoy of trucks taking essentials for hundreds of thousands of people in rebel-held areas on Thursday when it fell victim to a roadside bomb attack, the defence ministry said.
"Reports state the LTTE has also launched an artillery attack at these unarmed lorries," the ministry said, referring to the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
No one was hurt and the convoy returned to the government-held town of Vavuniya, the ministry said.
The UN office in Colombo said separately "that a major food convoy into the north of the island has been forced to turn back due to fighting," without explaining the nature of the problem.
The UN office said it would immediately seek "renewed security assurances from the two sides" before attempting to send the 50-truck convoy carrying 750 tonnes of supplies.
Earlier Thursday, the rebels accused the military of bombing bridges in rebel-held areas in a bid to block food reaching civilians.
Most international aid agencies have quit the troubled region after a government order, leaving only the International Committee of the Red Cross. The WFP's action was a one-off, and they no longer have a presence in the area.
Meanwhile, the military said it had used jets to bomb an arms store and an LTTE command centre in the north, the ministry said.
It gave no details of any new casualties.
The latest air strikes by government forces came as ground troops were battling to capture the rebel political capital of Kilinochchi, 330 kilometres (210 miles) north of the capital Colombo.
Security forces say they are on the outskirts of the town.
Troops have killed 7,553 rebels since Sri Lanka pulled out of a Norwegian-backed truce in January, according to the ministry. During the same period, 748 soldiers have been killed in combat.
The figures cannot be independently verified.
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