A bomb blast in the city of Trincomalee in northeastern Sri Lanka blamed on Tamil Tiger rebels killed four civilians and one navy officer yesterday, police and witnesses said, adding to concerns that the island nation could fall back into civil war.
The rebels also attacked a navy ship off the northeastern port city, wounding at least five sailors before the navy returned fire, said Commander D.K.P Dassanayake, a navy spokesman.
"They were attacking from five boats and one boat caught fire after the navy retaliated," Dassanayake said. It was not immediately known if the rebel suffered casualties.
In Trincomalee, the bomb was apparently aimed at a naval foot patrol when it exploded, said police officer Nihal Samarakoon, who confirmed the deaths. He said three navy officers also were wounded.
Kamalachandran, a resident, who was inside his home said he heard the sound of the explosion and came out to see his daughter in a pool of blood.
She was spreading washed clothes on a string to dry, when splinters from the explosion hit her. She bled profusely as she was taken to a hospital.
"The people who did it are not humans, there are small children and ladies around. They are no better than animals," said Kamalachandran, who like many Tamils, use only one name.
Kamalachandran said he was not sure if his daughter was dead or alive.
Separately, fighting between Tamil rebels and the army in an area about 100km north of Trincomalee eased yesterday, said military spokesman Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe.
The rebels from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) launched shells on two army positions for about three hours from the sea and land late on Sunday, drawing retaliatory fire from troops.
Samarasinghe said the military suffered no casualties, and it was not immediately known if the rebels were killed.
Meanwhile, the government canceled all May Day rallies in Colombo because of fears it could trigger violence, said police spokesman Rienzie Perera. Traditionally, almost all political parties hold May Day rallies on May 1, followed by respective huge party meetings.
The flare-up in violence has added urgency to efforts by European cease-fire monitors to get the government and rebels to resume peace talks.