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Last updated: 08 September, 2008 - Published 17:27 GMT
 
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Leave north, aid workers told
 
Gotabhaya Rajapaksa
Mr. Rajapaksa says aid workers were told to leave for their own safety
The Sri Lankan authorities say they ordered all foreign and local aid workers to leave LTTE-held Vanni.

Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa told BBC Sandeshaya that the government decided to urge the workers International and local Non Governmental Organisations (INGOs and NGOs) to leave Kilinochchi and surrounding areas.

"Currently nobody can do any development work in that area. So there's no reason for them to stay in Kilinochchi. The second reason was their security. When we ask the NGOs and INGOs that they cannot any longer stay there they have to completely withdraw and publicise their withdrawal" Mr. Rajapaksa said.

Muttur incident

The notice issued by the government says those already there should leave along with local staff who are not permanent residents of the area.

The government does not want to be accused of targeting aid workers "similar to what happened in Muttur", the Defence Secretary who is the younger brother of President Rajapaksa said.

 Now that we have given an adequate warning, as far as we are concerned aid workers are not there. We have told them to start withdrawing immediately and to let us know the progress
 
Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary

He was referring to the murder in 2006 of seventeen local workers for the French charity Action Against Hunger in the eastern town of Muttur.

Nordic monitors blamed the military for the execution-style killings, the Government blamed the rebels.

"Now that we have given an adequate warning, as far as we are concerned aid workers are not there. We have told them to start withdrawing immediately and to let us know the progress," he told BBCSinhala.com.

The government decision comes as troops press forward with an offensive aimed at crushing the rebels and ending their fight for a separate state for the Tamil minority.

Aid agencies in the north have been helping the estimated one hundred and sixty thousand people in rebel areas who have been displaced by fighting.

The United Nations says as many as eighty five thousand have fled their homes since the start of June, ahead of a military advance.

 
 
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