President vows to protect Sri Lanka sovereignty at any cost
Associated Press Writer
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ President Mahinda Rajapakse has vowed to protect Sri Lanka's sovereignty at any cost and threatened tough action if Tamil Tiger rebels refuse to end a spasm of violence that has left more than 170 people dead since early April.
Suspected rebels, meanwhile, fatally shot a member of a breakaway faction late Saturday in eastern Batticaloa, a local police officer said Sunday on condition of anonymity because of police regulations.
Rajapakse said he would not hesitate to take stern action if the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam continue to unleash attacks on security forces. The violence has killed more than 170 people since the start of April, nearly destroying efforts by Norwegian peace brokers to restart peace talks.
``If they (LTTE) insist on continuing their attacks, I will have to defend my country,'' Rajapakse said in an interview published in Colombo's Sunday Times.
``I have vowed to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka,'' Rajapakse was quoted as saying.
Rajapakse's comments came after the rebels threatened to resume war if they are denied access to the sea adjoining areas they control.
The threat of renewed warfare by the rebels is the latest in a steady escalation of tensions.
``We will not hesitate to wage war with anyone who attempts to prevent us from exercising our freedom,'' Col. Soosai, who heads the Sea Tigers, the rebels' naval wing, was quoted as saying by pro-rebel Web site, TamilNet, on Saturday.
The warning came just days after rebel suicide boats rammed and sank a navy patrol craft. Thursday's attack and a subsequent sea battle led to dozens of deaths.
Separately, European truce monitors announced they were suspending sea monitoring missions after rebels said they could be in danger from Tamil Tiger attacks.
On Saturday, Tamil rebels claimed naval forces killed eight Tamil civilians in an attack in northern Sri Lanka.
TamilNet claimed the navy surrounded the village of Allaipiddy on the northern Jaffna peninsula and bombarded its residents with grenades.
But on Sunday, residents, speaking on condition of anonymity fearing retribution, said unidentified men raided a home and killed the residents in a hail of gunfire. The motive behind the alleged attack was not known.
In the northern Jaffna, a Tamil resident was also fatally shot early Sunday, local police said. The motive behind the killing was not known.
The shooting in Batticaloa and Jaffna are likely to heighten tensions and adds to growing fears that a 2002 cease-fire between the rebels and government could collapse.
Navy spokesman D.K.P. Dassnayake said sailors in the area heard a blast but he denied the navy was involved.
The threat of renewed warfare by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam is the latest in violence that threatens to destroy a 2002 cease-fire agreement with the government.
The Tigers began fighting in 1983 to create a separate state for ethnic minority Tamils, accusing the majority Sinhalese of discrimination. More than 65,000 people died in the conflict before the 2002 truce.
Discuss this story
Published: Sun May 14 02:37:01 EDT 2006