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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 August 2006, 06:43 GMT 07:43 UK
Water flows to Sri Lanka farmers
Maavilaru waterway

Water has begun flowing to farmers in north-east Sri Lanka after a canal reopened that was at the centre of fighting between the army and rebels.

Both the army and Tamil Tiger rebels say they have reopened the Maavilaru waterway after two weeks of fighting.

The government had deployed some 2,000 troops in a bid to reopen the waterway after farmers in government-controlled areas had their supplies cut off.

The fighting spread to other areas in Trincomalee district.

"Water is flowing. The water level has risen six feet (almost two metres) high. That indicates there won't be a problem of water for those villagers and farmers," government spokesman Maj Upali Rajapakse told Reuters news agency.

"The humanitarian operation conducted by security forces has achieved success," he said.

Upsurge

The head of the government peace secretariat Palitha Khona said the control of the water should be in government hands.

"Not only should the water flow, the control of the water should be [in government hands] because the water has to be managed."

Originally the Tigers had said that local people had closed the gates on the Maavilaru waterway in a dispute with the government over water supply improvements.

Correspondents say the opening of the waterway does not mean that the fighting between the military and the rebels would abate.

The worst violence since the air force started bombing the area last week has centred on the north-eastern town of Muttur, to the north of the waterway.

Thousands of the town's mainly Muslim residents have fled while the Tigers and military fought over it.

And in one incident that has prompted international outrage, 17 local employees of a French relief agency, Action Against Hunger, were found dead in the town.

On Tuesday, two people, including a three-year-old, were killed in a car bomb attack in the capital, Colombo.

Douglas Devananda, the leader of the Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP) which opposes the Tamil Tigers' armed separatist campaign told the BBC the target was his colleague S Sivathasan, who was injured in the attack.

More than 800 people are estimated to have been killed in Sri Lanka in low-level fighting in recent months.

Despite the upsurge in fighting both sides still say they are acting defensively and therefore complying with the conditions of a 2002 ceasefire.




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