COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Tamil rebels released water from a disputed reservoir Tuesday in Sri Lanka, ending a 19-day blockade that sparked some of the worst fighting between government troops and guerrillas in four years.
On July 20, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam rebels blocked water supplies to 60,000 people in government-controlled villages in northeastern Trincomalee district 135 miles northeast of Colombo.
The rebels said the move was aimed at forcing the government to fulfill needs of people in rebel-held villages.
"The government used this issue to harass our people attacked them forcing displacement and starvation. Therefore we decided to open the gates," rebel spokesman Daya Master said.
Tigers wanted "security of civilians who must travel between government and LTTE areas; to remove the ban on items imposed by the army; and to incorporate drinking water supply to their areas," a statement said.
After initial talks failed, the government started an offensive to capture the areas around reservoir and violence spread to adjoining villages in Trincomalee killing scores and displacing tens of thousands of people.
Tamil Tiger rebels have fought the government since 1983 to create a separate state for the country's 3.2 million minority Tamils accusing majority Sinhalese of discrimination.
More than 65,000 people were killed in the conflict before the cease-fire which is now nearly collapsed.