Six killed as fresh violence engulfs Sri Lanka
Shimali Senanayake in Colombo,
April 27th, 2006, 6.30 pm.
At least four soldiers and two sailors were killed and six others
wounded in separate explosions on Thursday, even as the military
ceased aerial bombings on rebel positions in eastern Sri Lanka.
A Claymore fragmentation mine exploded in northwestern Mannar killing
at least three soldiers and wounding five others, Brig. Prasad
samarasinghe, military spokesman said. The soldiers were having a
river bath when the blast took place.
A grenade attack at an army point in northern Jaffna, killed one
soldier and wounded another, he said.
Two sailors on a motor-cycle were killed in a mine blast in Kyts,
Jaffna, hours after three commandos from Sri Lanka's special task
force _ an anti-terrorist elite force _ were slightly injured in
another claymore explosion also in Mannar, Samarasinghe said.
He blamed the Tamil Tiger rebels for the blasts.
The fresh attacks took place even as the military ceased bombing rebel
positions in eastern Sampoor, in retaliation to guerrilla strikes and
hours after a suicide bombing killed at least nine people and injured
28 others, including Sri Lanka's army chief.
Diplomats said pressure from neighboring India prompted the government
to halt the air strikes.
A key highway, which links Sri Lanka's north with the rest of the
country was also reopened.
Ulf Henricsson, head of the cease-fire monitoring mission visited the
areas targeted by the bombings for the first time on Thursday. A Tamil
rebel leader there, S. Elilan had informed him that 16 civilians were
killed in the military operations and 30 others were injured, said
Helen Olafsdottir, spokeswoman.
She said Henricsson had also inspected nearby Muttur, where four
civilians had been killed and at least nine others injured. The
military and the rebels traded charges about who was responsible for
"Based on Mr. Henricsson's personal observation, he confirmed that the
impact and weapons used were from the government forces," Olafsdottir
Meanwhile, UN agencies on Thursday were trying to assess the extent of
displacement and the reported exodus following the air strikes.
The Tamil rebels said more than 40,000 people were rendered homeless
following the military air raids.
"The recent displacement in and around Trincomalee is of serious
concern to UNHCR and its sister UN agencies and NGOs," said Lyndon
Jeffels, communication officer for the UNHCR, calling the 40,000
figure "somewhat excessive."
However, he said UNHCR estimates "around 7-8,000 people have moved
from the cluster of villages near the area of military operations and
air strikes in Sampoor."
The fluctuation in displacement figures may have been due to some
people returning to their homes in the daytime, spending only the
evening in displacement locations, Lyndon said.
"As the situation calms, UNHCR staff are now working to establish the
urgent needs to inform a coordinated and appropriate response," he
A team from International Committee of the Red Cross also visited
rebel-held Sampoor on Thursday.
"There is displacement along the coast-line with people moving
inland," said Marcal Izard, ICRC spokesman, but declined to pin-down
Izard said although there were requests on Wednesday, to evacuate the
injured from areas hit by the bombing, the ICRC couldn't't respond as
there were no firm security guarantees.
On Thursday, the ICRC had evacuated two civilians to the eastern
Batticaloa hospital, he said.
Norwegian peace brokers, meanwhile were optimistic about salvaging Sri
Lanka's unraveling peace bid.
"Both parties say they are committed to the cease-fire and are
coherent in their message," said Jon Hanssen-Bauer, Noyway's special
peace envoy, before leaving the island earlier Thursday. "Both parties
need to do whatever in their power to contain the escalating violence
and curb it from deteriorating into communal clashes."
"We don't need more polarization and hatred," he said.
Hanssen-Bauer said talks in Geveva were still not ruled out. He left
for an emergency meeting between the United States, Japan, the
European Union and Norway, known as the co-chairs to Sri Lanka's
peace process, scheduled to take place in Oslo, Norway on Friday.
The international community has strongly condemned Tuesday's suicide
bombing. The attack bore the hallmarks of the guerrillas, though they
have denied responsibility.
On Thursday, the Tigers accused the international community of failing
to exert pressure on the government to stop the air raids.
"While GoSL (government) has openly declared war, and is carrying out
these reprehensible murders of Tamil civilians, the international
community is turning a blind eye," the Tigers said in a statement.
"This terror atmosphere that has been created throughout the Tamil
homeland has shattered the Tamil people=85Today, Tamil people are
seeking and expecting protection from our movement," the statement
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Published: Thu Apr 27 11:01:53 EDT 2006