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Sri Lanka bars foreigners from former war zone

October 15, 2014

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka has barred foreigners from visiting the island nation’s former war zone without permission, saying the move is aimed at preventing “negative interventions.”

A Defense Ministry statement Wednesday mentioned its duty of maintaining national security but did not elaborate on what activities were of concern.

The ministry instructed foreign citizens to “obtain prior approval when they intend traveling” to the former war zone in the island’s north and clearly indicate the “objectives and purposes of the projects or other reasons for which they intend to travel.”

Sri Lanka’s quarter-century civil war ended in 2009 when government troops defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels, who fought to create a separate state for ethnic minority Tamils in the island’s north and east.

Before it launched its final assault on the Tamil Tigers in 2008 the government evicted all foreign aid workers, including the United Nations, from the area, but in the five years since the war’s end it had gradually eased restrictions.

However, foreigners as well as Sri Lankan citizens entering the region were frequently under surveillance.

Britain’s deputy high commissioner in Sri Lanka, Laura Davies, wrote in her blog last month that she was watched during a trip to the country’s east, also a former conflict zone.

“Worse, it was clear that the people I was meeting were having follow-up visits or phone calls, asking what I had done and said,” she wrote.

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