Sri Lankan government hits back at accusations that airstrikes violated truce
Sat April 29, 2006 23:37 EDT .
BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Sri Lanka - 's government has dismissed as ``outrageous'' accusations by European peace monitors that it violated a cease-fire by launching deadly airstrikes in Tamil Tiger rebel territory, state-run media reported Sunday, amid fears of an imminent return to civil war in this South Asian nation.
The Sri Lanka - Monitoring Mission said Saturday that the air strikes were in clear violation of a four-year-old truce and raised the possibility that security forces may have been involved in extra-judicial killings in Tamil-majority areas.
``We ... fear that government security forces have, in the north and the east, been involved in extra-judicial killings of civilians. This conviction is based on our observation and inquiries on the ground,'' it said, without elaborating.
The government sharply denied the charges.
``We categorically deny ... it is an outrageous allegation,'' government spokesman, Keheliya Rambukwella was quoted as saying in the state-run Sunday Observer.
The monitoring mission also criticized the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam rebels for continuing to attack government forces with anti-personnel mines, and said they were putting civilians at risk by placing political and military targets near the general population.
The rebels' Web site had no comment early Sunday.
Late Saturday, a suspected rebel gunman shot and killed a policeman at a railway station in Vavuniya, military spokesman, Brig. Prasad Samarasinghe said Sunday. Vavuniya is a government-held northern town near Tiger-held territory.
The government launched two days of airstrikes on rebel positions after a suicide attack in Colombo last Tuesday that seriously wounded the country's top army commander and killed at least 11 others. The airstrikes killed 12 people and displaced thousands more.
The rebels have said the 12 killed in the airstrikes were all civilians.
The government earlier said it would launch no more airstrikes if the guerillas also stopped their attacks.
The LTTE has been fighting since 1983 for a separate homeland for the island's ethnic minority Tamils. More than 65,000 people were killed in the war before Norway brokered a cease-fire in 2002.
The comments by the cease-fire monitors came as the government said it was prepared to travel to Switzerland any time to resume peace talks with the rebels.
The government and the rebels were scheduled to meet in Geneva on April 24-25, but the rebels refused to attend, blaming disputes with the government and attacks against Tamil civilians.
Norwegian peace brokers said in Oslo on Friday that the rebels and government have agreed to meet, but that no date had been set. The two sides held an initial round of peace talks in February.
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Published: Sun Apr 30 00:31:46 EDT 2006