'At least 200' civilians have died in Sri Lanka civil war

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The Independent Online

At least 200 civilians have been killed in fighting in the past two months in Sri Lanka and thousands more have had to flee their homes, European ceasefire monitors say.

The Scandinavian watchdog warned of a "serious humanitarian crisis", and accused both the Sri Lankan government and Tamil Tiger rebels of creating a refugee crisis, denying access to food, and preventing aid workers from reaching those in need.

Ten days ago 11 Muslims were found hacked to death. Just as they had over the killing of 17 aid workers, both sides have accused the other of responsibility.

Sri Lanka has slid back into civil war and in the north and east there has been almost daily fighting for two months now. Large areas are blocked off to journalists, but regular reports of civilian casualties emerge.

The European monitors are there to oversee a 2002 ceasefire that is now in tatters, even if both sides insist it is still technically in force. Both sides have broken it with impunity.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have been fighting for an independent homeland for Sri Lanka's Tamils for two decades.

Foreign diplomats are desperately trying to bring the two sides together for talks but every time there has been a moment of hope, within hours one or other side has dashed it, announcing they are not ready to talk.

The current fighting began two months ago, when the government attacked Tamil Tiger-held territory in the north-east. The government said it attacked to restore a vital water supply to the area. But it has since continued with the offensive.

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