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

Recruitment Genius: Senior .Net Application Developer

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £17500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The successful applicant will b...

Recruitment Genius: Continuous Improvement Manager

£41500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...

Recruitment Genius: Data Entry Administrator

£10670 - £16640 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letters: NHS data-sharing is good for patients

Independent Voices
 

Daily catch-up: the old Palace of Westminster; Batman vs Superman; and more Greenery

John Rentoul
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee