Tue, May 09, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Rebel fighting kills at least 11 in Sri Lanka

AFP , COLOMBO

A civilian reads a newspaper as Sri Lankan soldiers patrol in the northern town of Vavuniya, Sri Lanka, yesterday.

PHOTO: AP

At least 11 people were killed in Sri Lankan factional fighting yesterday, defense officials said, as a Japanese envoy sought to salvage the island's faltering peace process.

A breakaway faction of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) launched a pre-dawn attack against a base of the main guerrilla group in northeastern Trincomalee district yesterday, killing 11 and wounding four, defense sources said.

There was no immediate word from the Tigers or the faction led by V. Muralitharan, better known as Colonel Karuna, but official sources said the attack appeared to be a retaliatory strike after an LTTE attack on Karuna's forces last month.

The defense ministry said they had no further details of the latest violence because the fighting occurred in rebel-held territory.

The reports of violence emerged as Japanese envoy Yasushi Akashi met President Mahinda Rajapakse yesterday after the government imposed a curfew on Sunday in the northern Jaffna peninsula.

Defense Ministry spokesman Prasad Samarasinghe said the curfew would be lifted later yesterday. The main entry and exit points to rebel-held territory in the island's north have also been closed since Sunday.

"We hope to be able to open the entry and exit points very soon," Samarasinghe said without elaborating.

On Sunday, security forces imposed the curfew in Jaffna ahead of protests over last week's killing of seven men the army said were suspected Tamil Tigers, but rebels described as civilians.

The security measures also followed reports that eight men were missing in Jaffna on Sunday.

Following his talks with Rajapakse, Akashi was to meet today with the leader of the LTTE's political wing, S.P. Thamilselvan, in a rebel-held northern town, the Tigers confirmed.

Despite the truce signed in 2002, more than 200 people, mostly civilians, have died over the last month in tit-for-tat attacks by government and rebel forces.

The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission that oversees the truce has said the violence is out of control and the only way to curb it is for the two sides to agree to talks.

The political situation has stagnated since April 2003 after six rounds of face-to-face discussions that began in September 2002.

In February the government and rebels held an initial round of discussions in Switzerland aimed at shoring up the ceasefire amid a surge in violence, but a follow-up round was postponed and killings have since escalated.

In the most serious attack since the truce took hold, a female suicide bomber wounded army chief Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka and 30 others in an attack at army headquarters in Colombo on April 25.

Eleven people including the bomber died.

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