Sri Lanka Navy Troops Shoot Foreign Aid Worker



A foreign aid worker has been shot by navy troops in northeastern Sri Lanka, where the government is battling Tamil rebels. As Anjana Pasricha reports from New Delhi, concerns about security of aid workers are growing in Sri Lanka following a series of such attacks.

Military officials say guards opened fire when a Filipino staffer of the aid group Mercy Corps strayed too close to a naval camp near the port town of Trincomalee. The man was shot in the head and suffered a minor wound.

The officials say people had been warned not to come too close to the camp.

Mercy Corps says the staffer had gone to Trincomalee to monitor a tsunami relief project.

The deputy director of Mercy Corps in Sri Lanka, Iveta Ouvry, says the worker was shot late Wednesday near the hotel where he was staying.

"He was on the beach close to the Club Oceanic hotel," said Ouvry. "He sustained an injury at the back of his head."

The shooting of the Mercy Corps member is the latest in a series of incidents involving aid workers.

In some cases, these workers have been deliberately targeted. Two weeks ago, two local volunteers of the Sri Lanka Red Cross were abducted from a train station in Colombo. They were later found murdered.

The worst incident occurred last August, when 17 local staff of the French aid group Action Against Hunger were found massacred in the eastern town of Muttur.

Aid workers are not the only victims. Human rights groups have reported hundreds of abductions and disappearances of civilians since the Tamil rebels and security forces resumed fighting last year. Rights workers say both sides are guilty of such violations.

International observers have severely criticized the government for not doing enough to halt the abuses.

Last week, an international panel called a presidential commission investigating human rights violations "ineffective." It accused the commission that it was appointed to monitor of moving too slowly and operating without transparency.

Paikiasothy Saravanmuttu, who heads an independent research group in Colombo called the Center of Policy Alternatives, says the government is under growing attack for failing to protect human rights.

"Nothing seems to be done. Promises of commissions and inquiries are being made, but with no demonstrable progress on the ground," said Saravanamuttu. "As a consequence, you get more violations."

Sri Lanka's civil war erupted a quarter-century ago, after Tamil Tiger rebels demanded an independent homeland for the ethnic Tamil minority. It stopped for four years after the two sides signed a truce in 2002, but fighting has again engulfed the north and the east of the island, where the rebels have their bases.

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