Sri Lanka condemns Tamil rebels for mine attack killing eight sailors
Thu January 12, 2006 09:06 EST .
Associated Press Writer
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ Suspected Tamil Tiger rebels triggered a powerful anti-personnel mine against a government navy convoy in northern Sri Lanka Thursday, killing at least eight sailors and injuring eight others, an official said.
The blast occurred in Chettiukulam in Vavuniya district, 210 kilometers (130 miles) north of the capital, Colombo, military spokesman Brig. Prasad Samarasinghe said.
There were about 20 sailors in the convoy moving toward their base in the northwestern town of Mannar.
``I can confirm that eight navy personnel were killed and another eight injured,'' Samarasinghe said.
``Even yesterday (Wednesday) we recovered two Claymore mines from this area, still this blast has happened,'' he said.
The latest incident brings to 69 the number of Sri Lankan security forces killed in attacks blamed on the Tamil Tigers, endangering a nearly four-year-old cease-fire that halted nearly two decades of civil war.
The government accused the Tigers of carrying out Thursday's attack.
``The government has been acting with so much of restraint but the LTTE continues to violate the cease-fire agreement,'' government spokesman and Cabinet minister Nimal Siripala de Silva told The Associated Press. LTTE stands for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the Tigers' formal name.
The rebels have denied involvement in any of the attacks but the style of planning and execution of attacks make the Tigers the main suspects.
The attack comes even as European Union on Thursday called on the government and the LTTE to hold talks, warning that a return to civil war would cause ``massive human suffering.''
``It is imperative that the government, other political parties and the Tamil Tigers heed the call of the people and join hands to arrest the spread of violence,'' the EU said in a statement issued in Colombo.
United States Ambassador to Sri Lanka Jeffrey Lunstead warned Tuesday that if ``the LTTE chooses to abandon peace ... we want it to be clear, they will face a stronger, more capable and more determined Sri Lankan military.''
Both the government and the rebels have said they are ready for talks, but issues such as a venue remain in dispute. Norwegian Eric Solheim, who brokered the 2002 cease-fire, is scheduled to arrive in Sri Lanka Jan. 23 to push for fresh talks.
The rebels want to establish a separate Tamil homeland in the island's northeast alleging discrimination by majority Sinhalese-dominated state.
The civil war has claimed 65,000 lives and displaced 1.6 million since 1983.
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Published: Thu Jan 12 10:16:59 EST 2006