Turf wars engulf tsunami relief effort

Regional conflicts are threatening to endanger relief efforts in Indonesia and Sri Lanka - the two Indian Ocean nations most affected by the tsunami.

    Millions in Indonesia and Sri Lanka are in need of aid

    In Indonesia's Aceh, isolated skirmishes have been reported between government forces and separatist rebels, ending an unofficial truce that has been in place since the tsunami struck on 26 December.

    In Sri Lanka, the ethnic conflict came to the fore when the government in Colombo refused UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan permission on Saturday to visit disaster-hit areas in the north and east of the country controlled by the rebel Tamil Tigers.

    Separatist rebels in Aceh have been fighting a low-level war against Indonesian troops for an independent homeland for more than 20 years. 

    An insurgency has raged in Aceh
    for the past two decades

    The conflict, however, had temporarily ceased in the immediate aftermath of the tsunami.

    But early on Sunday, suspected rebels fired shots at officers guarding the home of Aceh's deputy police chief, located near the United Nation's relief headquarters in the provincial capital, Banda Aceh.

    More clashes have been reported in recent days. Marine Lieutenant Colonel Bambang Sus said Indonesian troops had on Wednesday ambushed a group of rebel fighters in the northern Aceh town of Seunudun, killing two in a one-hour gun battle near a refugee camp.

    Another spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Ahmad Yani Basuki blamed the rebels for resuming hostilities and said military patrols had been increased.

    Perilously close to the sea, Aceh accounted for a majority of Indonesia's 1,04,000 dead.

    Divided Lanka

    Like in Aceh, the conflict in Sri Lanka is also two decades old and has claimed thousands of lives.

    Annan was denied permission to
    visit LTTE-held areas

    Though united in grief by the tragedy, distrust still runs deep between the government in the south and the rebel LTTE in the north.

    Annan wished to visit all affected areas of the country, but Colombo refused to let him do so.

    "I am here on a humanitarian mission. I would like to visit all the areas, but as you know I am here as a guest of the government and they set the itinerary," Annan said.

    A government spokesman gave his own rationale in not letting the UN secretary-general visit rebel territory.

    "Annan hasn't gone to Ireland and met with the IRA, he hasn't gone to Spain and met with Basque rebels," he said. "There doesn't seem to have been a precedent."

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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