Sri Lanka edges closer to war as air force bombs rebels, claiming Tigers fired at troops
Sun July 30, 2006 07:04 EDT .
DILIP GANGULY - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) The Sri Lankan air force bombed Tamil Tiger rebel positions on Sunday after the insurgents fired at ground troops advancing to smash a rebel blockade of water supplies for government-held villages in the northeast. Sri Lanka - 's northeast is divided into government-controlled and rebel-held areas and the status quo has been maintained since the cease-fire. The sluice gate falls in a rebel-held area in Trincomalee.
Rambukwella said earlier that security forces were advancing on the sluice gate, but were slowed down by land mines in the area.
Earlier, pro-rebel Web site TamilNet said thousands of Sri Lankan troops had moved closer to the gate, and warned them against entering rebel-held areas.
``We would retaliate fiercely if Sri Lankan troopers enter,'' the area, the rebels' political chief S. Elilan was quoted as saying by TamilNet. ``It will lead to serious consequences.''
Under the terms of the cease-fire, the government and rebels need to seek permission before entering each other's areas.
Sunday's development followed several days of air force bombings that have killed 15 rebels, the rebels' official peace secretariat Web site said.
The rebels have said the airstrikes and firing by ground troops in Tiger-controlled territories are ``tantamount to a declaration of war.''
Months of violence between government forces and the rebels have shattered the fragile cease-fire, which was meant to end more than two decades of fighting that claimed the lives of about 65,000 people.
The Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission said the cease-fire was still in tact.
``The agreement is still valid as no body has resigned from it but it is being violated a lot,'' spokesman Thorfinnur Omarsson told The Associated Press Sunday after the air strike and alleged firing.
But the mission itself has been affected as Finland and Denmark, two of the five countries in the mission, have withdrawn their monitors because of security concerns.
Since the European Union designated the Tamil Tigers a terrorist group in May, the rebels have demanded the withdrawal of the three EU countries in the mission Finland, Denmark and Sweden, saying they could no longer be objective. Sweden has yet to make a decision.
The rebels began fighting for an independent Tamil homeland in 1983, accusing the majority Sinhalese of discrimination.
An escalation of violence in recent months has threatened a return to all-out war, with about 800 people half of them civilians killed since December, according to European cease-fire monitors.
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Published: Sun Jul 30 10:22:31 EDT 2006