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Massacre-hit French aid group resumes SL work

Written by: Staff

Colombo, Dec 5: French aid group Action Contre la Faim said today it is resuming operations in Sri Lanka, four months after 17 staff were massacred in an attack truce monitors blamed on the military.

Sri Lankan authorities are still probing the execution-style killings -- the worst attack on humanitarian workers since a 2003 suicide bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad killed 22 UN staff.

Eric Fort, Action Contre la Faim's (ACF) head of mission, said the group would reopen its office in the restive east this week, but would not resume operations in the town of Mutur, further north, where the massacre occured.

''We will reopen the office at the end of this week in Batticaloa, and we hope to be fully operational around Christmas,'' Fort said. ''(The violence) is escalating, the needs are huge, and it's our mandate.'' ''We know the number of displaced is very high in the area over there, so that's why we decided not just to stay in Sri Lanka to follow the (massacre) inquiry,'' he added.

The government announced a probe into the killings amid growing international outrage and the bodies have been exhumed and examined by forensics. But no arrests have yet been made.

The Nordic Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, which oversees what is left of a 2002 ceasefire between the Sri Lankan military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam said in late August it was convinced only the security forces could have been behind the killings.' The government strenuously denies any involvement.

The aid group's decision to resume operations comes just days after the Tigers said they were resuming their struggle for an independent state in north and east Sri Lanka.

More than 3,000 civilians, troops and rebel fighters have been killed so far this year in air strikes, artillery duels, ambushes and suicide bombings in a new chapter in the island's two-decade civil war.

More than 67,000 people have been killed since the conflict began in 1983.


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