Lanka moves to resettle Muslims displaced by conflict
Sixteen bus loads of civilians left relief centres in Kantalai and headed for their homes in the nearby eastern coastal town of Muttur.india Updated: Sep 07, 2006 15:43 IST
Thousands of Muslims displaced during fighting between government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels began returning to their homes on Thursday after spending more than a month in relief camps, officials said.
Sixteen bus loads of civilians left relief centres in Kantalai and headed for their homes in the nearby eastern coastal town of Muttur, which is home to a large Muslim population, a government spokesman said.
"We started the process today in a big way because the fighting has died down in those areas," a spokesman for President Mahinda Rajapaksa's office said. "More civilians want to return."
Heavy fighting between government forces and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in August at Muttur forced around 40,000 civilians to flee the town and surrounding areas.
Action Against Hunger, a French charity, lost 17 of its local staff in the fighting after they were shot dead at Muttur in early August.
The Nordic monitors of a ceasefire agreed in 2002 have said that government forces were responsible for the massacre. The government, however, has denied involvement and blamed the Tigers.
An upsurge in fighting since December in the north and east has claimed more than 1,500 lives in Sri Lanka. The island nation has suffered from a bitter, decades-old ethnic conflict.