Supplies meant for Tamils displaced

COLOMBO: Hundreds of people on Saturday overran a Government convoy of food trucks, seizing supplies meant for tens of thousands of displaced Tamils in the rebel-controlled east, witnesses and rebels said.

More than 40,000 people displaced in August by fighting between Government troops and rebels are living in schools and temporary shelters in the rebel-held village of Vakarai, in eastern Batticaloa district.

They have faced an acute shortage of food since the main access road was closed last month after clashes intensified in the area.

The Government sent eight truckloads of food to Vakarai, but the convoy was stopped by a mob, and five trucks were stripped of their cargo at Mankerni, the last Government-controlled village before entering rebel territory, an eyewitness who travelled with the convoy told The Associated Press.

The remaining three trucks returned to Batticaloa, the witness said.

The witness said he believed that ethnic Tamils from nearby displacement camps had robbed the trucks, but it was impossible to immediately confirm this.

Rebels' allegation

A statement by the rebels' peace coordination agency said a Sinhalese mob had stolen the food and accused the military the vast majority of whom are also Sinhalese of complicity in the ambush.

The ``Sri Lankan military and paramilitary stood guard as the Sinhala mobs looted the food,'' the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam said in a statement e-mailed to the media. AP