Tue, Aug 15, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Violence hits Sri Lanka

PEACE HOPES DASHED Pakistan's ambassador was the target of a bomb attack, while government forces engaged in close-quarters fighting with the Tamil Tigers

AFP , COLOMBO

Wounded Sri Lankan army Private K.A. Aviyasena is visited by government officials and Buddhist monks at a hospital near an airforce base where more than 60 wounded soldiers were taken after fierce weekend clashes with Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels on Sunday. Aviyasena and other wounded soldiers on the front lines say they are upset about the government's plans to resume peace negotiations with Tiger rebels despite clashes that left many of their comrades dead or wounded.

PHOTO: AFP

Sri Lanka was rocked by a wave of violence Monday as a bomb in Colombo killed seven people, heavy fighting raged in the north and the rebels claimed the military bombed an orphanage killing 43 schoolgirls.

The blast in the capital was caused by a claymore mine and targeted Pakistan's High Commissioner Wali Mohamed, officials in Islamabad and security sources in Colombo said.

The ambassador was driving through the area when the blast occurred, police said, adding that a Sri Lankan military vehicle escorting him was hit by the explosion.

"The ambassador is safe. He is unhurt," Pakistan high commission spokeswoman Suriya Jamal said.

However four commandos guarding the diplomat were killed instantly, police said, adding that the remaining three victims were bystanders. Eight others were wounded and taken to hospital.

It was the first time in 21 years that a civilian foreigner had been targeted in an attack in Sri Lanka's three-decade-old separatist campaign. An American couple was kidnapped in 1985 by the Tamil militants.

Pakistan, the main small arms supplier to Sri Lanka, strongly condemned the blast.

"The attack was on our high commissioner who is safe but his car is damaged. Three members of his security team were injured," foreign ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said in Islamabad.

Military officials said fierce close-range fighting was raging yesterday in the besieged northern Jaffna Peninsula after two days of shelling.

The rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were using human waves to pound army defense lines in the peninsula, an area they ran as a de facto separate state for five years until 1995, military officials said.

"The fighting [has been] continuing since Friday afternoon, but close-quarter fighting has now begun," one official said.

"The Tigers are using human waves to attack army lines. There are heavy casualties on both sides," he said.

Military losses rose to 60 dead and at least 300 wounded while the defense ministry placed Tiger losses at 200 dead and more than 350 wounded.

The intense fighting cut off Jaffna, where hundreds of residents were fleeing the violence and were displaced within the peninsula, the official said, adding that there was increased concern for the safety of civilians there.

Tamil Tiger guerrillas, meanwhile, accused the military of bombing an LTTE orphanage in the northeastern Mullaitivu region yesterday, killing 43 schoolgirls attending a first aid course.

They also accused soldiers of shelling 15 civilians huddled in a church on the islet of Kayts near Jaffna on Sunday.

Pro-rebel Tamilnet charged that the shells were fired by the military from its Palaly base.

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