The Lanka Academic

 
AUGUST 3, 2006 EST, USA
 
QUAERE VERUM
 
VOL. 7, NO. 119

JAYANTHA DHANAPALA

Candidate for UN Secretary General from Sri Lanka.
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Headline Summary
F R E E      C L A S S I F I E D S
T  O  P      H  E  A  D  L  I  N  E
Fighting rages in Sri Lankan town; 18 civilians killed when schools shelled, army says
Associated Press, Thu August 3, 2006 07:53 EDT . DILIP GANGULY - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Fighting raged Thursday between government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels in a seaside northeastern town, with artillery fire hitting three schools where residents had taken shelter, killing 18 people, the military said. On Thursday, TamilNet claimed the rebels, who want to carve out a separate homeland for Sri Lanka - 's 3.2 million minority Tamils, had taken control of parts of Muttur, a government-held town bordered by rebel-controlled villages and jungle.

Intense fighting was under way as ``hundreds of heavily armed (Tamil Tigers) who have taken control of the town center laid siege to four Sri Lanka - army camps on its periphery,'' TamilNet reported, quoting local residents.

Government accounts were different.

``Overnight, the terrorists managed to get inside and are hiding in homes of residents,'' chief government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella told The Associated Press, adding: ``The town is under our control.''

He said the military was not using heavy weapons, fearing they could hurt civilians.

Officials said the rebels were pressing attacks in a number of parts of the town, including against the main telecommunications building and a police station.

``They are operating in small groups of two to three and engaging our forces,'' Rajapakse said. He accused the rebels of erecting roadblocks preventing the evacuation of 60 to 70 wounded people.

The fighting has sent hundreds of people fleeing into churches, mosques and schools. On Wednesday, an artillery round hit a church where some 600 people had taken shelter, killing an 8-year-old boy, TamilNet reported.

A Defense Ministry statement said government forces killed 40 Tiger rebels and wounded 70 Wednesday in heavy fighting in and around Trincomalee, including Muttur. The fighting has also killed eight government soldiers and wounded 57 since Wednesday. Rajapakse said casualties suffered by the rebels Thursday were not immediately known.

The clashes have been among the fiercest since the 2002 cease-fire.

The latest violence was sparked after the rebels shut down a reservoir and cut off water to nearby government-held villages. The military responded with airstrikes and a ground assault.

Norwegian envoy Jon Hanssen-Bauer, who is scheduled to arrive in Sri Lanka - on Friday, was to meet with Sri Lankan government and rebel leaders in an effort to settle the dispute, Norwegian embassy spokesman Tom Knappskog said Thursday.

``The arrival of the special envoy is to see that all possible attempts are made in order to see that the peace process is on track and isn't derailed,'' Rambukwella told a news conference.

Separately, New York-based Human Rights Watch said more international monitors were needed after three of the five Nordic countries overseeing the cease-fire decided to withdraw observers.

Sweden, Finland and Denmark have said they were pulling out for security reasons. The rebels had demanded that EU members withdraw after the 25-nation group labeled the Tamil Tigers as terrorists.

Associated Press Writer, Bharatha Mallawarachi, contributed to this report. Discuss this story
Published: Thu Aug 3 08:31:54 EDT 2006

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