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Sri Lanka orders Red Cross to quit former war zone

[AFP, Sunday, 21 November 2010 09:42 No Comment]

Sri Lanka's government has ordered the Red Cross to close its offices in the island's former war zone Sri Lanka’s government has ordered the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to close its offices in the island’s former war zone, the Geneva-based humanitarian agency said Sunday.

The government told the ICRC to move out of two northern towns after the defeat of the Tamil Tiger rebels in May last year brought about the end of decades of civil war, spokeswomen Sarasi Wijeratne said.

"The government has asked the ICRC to close the Jaffna and Vavuniya offices and operate only from Colombo," she told AFP, adding that no reason had been given for the move.

Wijeratne said the Jaffna office provided artificial limbs to war victims while the office in Vavuniya helped families visiting detained relatives.

There was no immediate confirmation from the government, but Sri Lankan authorities earlier this month tightened control over local and international non-governmental organisations.

The government information department said there were 250 international and 1,000 domestic aid agencies working in Sri Lanka, which would now have to register with the defence ministry following a change in the law.

Sri Lankan authorities have long been suspicious of aid agencies, which were often seen as sympathising with the Tamil Tigers during the country’s civil war.

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