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Thursday, 7 September, 2000, 13:28 GMT 14:28 UK
Jaffna limps back to life
Soldier on Jaffna street
Soldiers are everywhere in Jaffna town
By Alastair Lawson in Jaffna

An uneasy calm has descended on the Jaffna peninsula in northern Sri Lanka after the recent heavy fighting.

Hundreds of Sri Lankan soldiers and Tamil Tiger rebels were killed in two days of fighting this week.

The sound of heavy artillery can still be heard on the outskirts of Jaffna town in the south-west of the peninsula and low-flying MiG jets occasionally fly over to launch bombing raids against rebel positions.

Although soldiers are everywhere on the streets, shops and market stalls are operating normally, even if the range of products is limited.

Sri Lankan soldier in Jaffna
Hundreds died in the recent offensive
Army checkpoints are on all major and minor roads, although there is little traffic.

All of government-controlled Jaffna is under curfew from dusk until dawn.

The army says that it has made the town of Jaffna safer following its offensive, but the Tamil Tigers say that hundreds of soldiers were either killed or injured in return for only a small territorial advance.

Aid agencies say there is still enough food for the population of around half a million in the peninsula, even though roughly 80% of the people are on rations.

Malnutrition

In a recently-completed survey, Medicins sans Frontieres concluded that around 20% of displaced people are suffering from acute malnutrition.

The aid agency says that this figure rises to over 30% among children aged between six months and 17 months.

Evidence of the election campaign, which is currently gripping the capital, Colombo, isn't to be found here.

People on the streets say they are more worried about important things, such as securing enough food for their families and ensuring that the education of their children is interrupted as little as possible.

The authorities in Jaffna town, meanwhile, say they are trying to arrange places on boats for thousands of people who want to leave the peninsula, which is currently only accessible to the rest of Sri Lanka by air or sea.

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See also:

22 Aug 00 | South Asia
Fears of violence in Sri Lanka
06 Sep 00 | South Asia
Sri Lanka dead handed over
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