European cease-fire monitors suspend operations in Sri Lanka 's restive Trincomalee
Tue January 17, 2006 08:58 EST .
DILIP GANGULY - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) European cease-fire monitors said Tuesday they were suspending operations in the restive port city of Trincomalee, hours after suspected Tamil Tiger rebels ambushed a bus, wounding 12 sailors and sparking a gun battle that killed at least two civilians, officials and a pro-rebel Web-site said. Members of the Sri Lanka - Monitoring Mission, drawn from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland, were deployed after the government and the Tamil Tiger rebels signed a Norwegian-brokered cease-fire in 2002. The truce has come under serious strain with almost daily killings. At least 75 Sri Lankan soldiers have died in the violence since Dec. 4.
Separately, suspected rebels detonated an anti-personnel mine, killing one soldier and injuring another near the main northern city of Jaffna, 300 kilometers (185 miles) north of Colombo, the military's media unit said.
The attacks took place as Norway's Ambassador Hans Brattskar and Hagrup Haukland, head the monitoring team, held talks in the rebel-held north with Tiger political chief S.P Thamilselvan about the possibility of resuming stalled peace talks in a bid to keep the country from sliding back into civil war.
Suspected Tigers set off a bomb targeting a bus in Trincomalee said military spokesman Brig. Athula Jayawardena of the Tuesday's incident. ``After the explosion, (the rebels) also fired at us with small arms,'' Jayawardena said. Navy personnel shot back and some civilians were caught in the crossfire, he said.
The pro-rebel TamilNet Web site reported the two civilians were killed by Sri Lankan troops who fired in retaliation after the blast.
The two sides have held six rounds of peace talks, but subsequent talks have stalled over power-sharing disagreements.
Both sides say they are ready for talks, but there is disagreement over details. The rebels want sweeping autonomy, which the government warns would lead to the ethnic division of this island nation of 19 million people.
Norwegian peace broker Eric Solheim was scheduled to arrive on Jan. 23 as part of an effort to get the talks restarted.
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Published: Tue Jan 17 09:20:59 EST 2006