Lanka restricts foreigners' entry to former Northern war zone

Sri Lanka on Wednesday barred foreigners from visiting its former war zone in the Tamil-majority northern province without prior approval, citing national security concerns amid reports of attempts to revive the LTTE.

PTI| Updated: Oct 15, 2014, 21:01 PM IST

Colombo: Sri Lanka on Wednesday barred foreigners from visiting its former war zone in the Tamil-majority northern province without prior approval, citing national security concerns amid reports of attempts to revive the LTTE.

Foreign passport holders will now have to inform the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development about the nature of their visit and the area they intend to visit for obtaining permission for visiting the northern province, military spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya said at a media briefing.

"The decision has been taken to restrict foreigners' visits to North following information received by government intelligence services that certain foreign nationals are engaged in spreading various opinions among different communities to incite public disturbance and conflicts among the civilians, thereby threatening the national security," Wanigasooriya said.

The new move came after foreign nationals were turned away at Omanthai, the army controlled entry point to the North on the A9 highway, last week ahead of President Mahinda Rajapaksa's visit to the province.

Ethnic Tamils in Northern Province accuse the government of human rights violations since the military crushed a separatist movement there in 2009.

Sri Lanka's military authorities claim that there is a renewed attempt by the Tamil diaspora to revive the LTTE in the North to launch another phase of its struggle for a separate state.

The new restrictions come amid a UN-mandated international probe into Sri Lanka's human rights records in the last phase of two-decade old civil war against Tamil Tigers which ended in 2009.

Lanka accuses several diplomatic missions here as well as foreigners of trying to collect testimony from survivors to support allegations of rights abuses by security forces during the civil war.

Denying allegations that up to 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed by its troops in the final months of fighting, Colombo has refused to cooperate with the probe initiated by the UN Human Rights Council.

During the height of the military battle with the LTTE, foreigners were not allowed to visit battle zone areas of north and east. However, the ban was lifted after the civil war ended in 2009 after Sri Lankan military defeated the Tamil Tigers.