Leading article: A dirty and undeclared war

Share

It is not only the continuing mayhem in Iraq that is being eclipsed by the month-old war between Israel and Hizbollah in Lebanon. At any other time, the execution-style killing of 15 aid workers in Sri Lanka would surely have been front-page news. That it was not is testimony to the number and ferocity of the conflicts being played out in these early August days.

The aid workers, all Tamils, were employed by the Paris-based agency, Action Against Hunger. They were shot in the troubled region of Muthur in the north-east of the country, where they had helped survivors of the tsunami and, more recently, victims of the resurgent violence between Sri Lankan government forces and the Tamil Tiger separatists. In the four years since the government and the Tigers signed their ceasefire, this region has increasingly become a new front line.

The most immediate consequence of the killing has been the decision of the agency to suspend its operations in Sri Lanka. AAH can hardly be blamed for doing so. No organisation, however dedicated to its cause, can afford to risk the lives of its workers in this way, when the odds seem so stacked against it. Tragically, of course, it is those who need charitable assistance most who will feel the departure of the agency most keenly.

The second, equally predictable, consequence is the exchange of recriminations that has ensued between the Sri Lankan authorities and the Tamil Tigers, each of whom deny that their forces could have been responsible for the murders. While precedent points strongly to the Tigers, however, the identity of those who committed the barbaric crime probably matters less in the last analysis than what this atrocity says about the security situation in this part of Sri Lanka.

It is now abundantly clear that the fragile ceasefire between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers is at an end. Even though both sides reaffirmed their respect for the ceasefire as recently as February, the violence has only escalated since. Bombings and fighting proliferated, with the loss of hundreds of lives. Then last month, in a particularly vicious move, the Tigers closed off the water supply to thousands of farmers. Heavy-handed government efforts to restore the water supply precipitated new bouts of fighting.

All this is a far cry from the promises of co-operation that followed the devastation of the tsunami. It is hard to see it as anything other than the prelude to a new civil war that would destroy Sri Lanka's tourist industry and, with it, much of the economy. The hope must be that the killing of the aid workers shocks both sides into retreating from the brink, but today that hope looks slender indeed.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Langley James : Desktop Support Analyst; 1st Line; Moorgate up to £23k

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Langley James : Desktop Support Analyst; 1st Line; ...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Sales Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This fragrance store are looking for enthusias...

Recruitment Genius: Project Manager

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting and rewarding role ...

Recruitment Genius: E-commerce Executive - UK / International

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be joining a long-established, renown...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: Old London Bridge; how to fight UKIP; and wolves

John Rentoul
Muslim men pray at the East London Mosque  

Sadly, it needs to be said again: being a Muslim is not a crime

Yasmin Alibhai Brown
In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible