Fri, Nov 03, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Three killed in Sri Lanka clashes


Tamil Tiger rebels fired artillery at troops guarding a closed highway in northern Sri Lanka yesterday, killing one soldier and wounding two, while troops shot and killed two rebels during a clash in the east, the military said.

The rebels opened fire with artillery at a military post guarding the A-9 highway, a key artery connecting the northern Tamil majority peninsula of Jaffna with the rest of Sri Lanka, military spokesman Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe said yesterday. One soldier was killed and two wounded, he said.

The government has refused rebel demands to reopen the road, an issue that led to the collapse of peace talks between the two sides last weekend in Geneva.

In a separate incident, troops shot and killed two rebels in the eastern district of Batticaloa after the militants attacked a military foot patrol late on Wednesday, Samarasinghe said.

"We recovered weapons and a radio set from the dead terrorists," Samarasinghe said.

There was no reported air strikes yesterday, but an air force official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said jets were in combat readiness if rebels attacks escalate.

On Wednesday, air force planes hit Tamil Tiger artillery positions in the east, prompting the rebels to accuse the government of mounting a major offensive just days after peace talks failed.

"The pattern of firing and bombing are indicative of a large scale military offensive being planned by the Sri Lankan military," the rebels said on their Web site

The peace negotiations between the government and rebel envoys ended fruitlessly, without even an agreement on when to talk again.

The talks, aimed at salvaging the 2002 ceasefire and halting more than two decades of conflict, failed after the government rejected a rebel demand to reopen the A-9 highway. The government has said it would be willing to reopen the highway if the rebels halted their violence.

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