Tamil rebels accuse Sri Lankan military of attempted attack after explosion in rebel area
Sat January 21, 2006 13:23 EST .
Associated Press Writer
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels accused the army on Saturday of sending commandoes to assassinate top guerrilla leaders after an apparent explosion was heard in rebel-controlled territory.
Separately, two suspected rebels were killed and a police officer was injured in a shootout at a checkpoint in the country's north, the military and rebels said.
The apparent explosion in a Tiger-held area triggered rumors of an attempt to kill rebel leaders.
``We are all fine,'' S. Pulidevan, a top rebel peace negotiator, said of the rebel leadership.
The pro-rebel Web site TamilNet said a seven-member group of army commandoes had invaded rebel areas but fled when civilian volunteers and rebels counterattacked them Saturday morning.
The Defense Ministry's Media Unit denied that it had deployed any team to target rebel leaders.
Also Saturday, rebels opened fire when police at a checkpoint in Vavuniya district tried to search them, military spokesman Brig. Athula Jayawardena said.
``Police retaliated and killed two terrorists,'' Jayawardena said. One police officer was injured, he said.
Separately, police said they discovered more than 14 kilograms (30 pounds) of explosives hidden under a seat on a passenger bus bound for the northwestern town of Mannar on Friday.
The C4 explosives _ which can be used to make anti-personnel mines _ probably belonged to the Tamil guerrillas, police officer Upula Seneviratne said. Five passengers on the bus were arrested, he said.
Also Saturday, the military found the body of a Tamil Tiger intelligence agent shot dead in eastern Batticaloa.
A faction that broke away from the main Tamil Tiger group in 2004 may have been behind the killing, Jayawardena said.
Violence has soared in northeastern Sri Lanka in recent months, putting a four-year-old truce under increasing strain.
At least 78 members of government security forces have been killed in violence, mainly mine blasts, blamed on Tamil rebels since Dec. 4. The guerrillas have repeatedly denied any involvement.
Norwegian International Development Minister Erik Solheim, who played a key role in arranging the cease-fire between the government and the rebels in 2002, is scheduled to arrive in Sri Lanka on Monday to try to jump-start stalled peace talks.
The rebels have fought the government since 1983 to create a separate state for ethnic minority Tamils, alleging discrimination by the majority Sinhalese.
More than 65,000 people died in the fighting before the truce.
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Published: Sat Jan 21 17:32:42 EST 2006