Sri Lankan air force bombs rebels' northern stronghold, 5 civilians dead
Thu November 2, 2006 12:42 EST .
Associated Press Writer
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ Sri Lankan air force jets bombed the Tamil rebel stronghold of Kilinochchi on Thursday, killing five civilians, a rebel official and European truce monitors said, further deepening a crisis that risk an all out war.
Four bombs were dropped some 600 meters (1980 feet) away from a hospital and destroyed a civilian home, the Tamil Tigers' military spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan said by telephone from Kilinochchi.
``The bomb smashed the house to bits,'' Ilanthirayan said. ``The deceased were a family of five. The father, the mother, their two children and a grandmother. This is state terrorism. The civilized world should condemn it.''
A rebel Web site reported the bombs that fell near Kilinochchi's main hospital damaged the wards, causing hundreds of panicked patients to flee.
A spokesman for European truce monitors confirmed the air strike and civilian deaths.
``We have our monitors there, they saw the jets and heard bombings,'' said Thorfinnur Omarsson, spokesman for Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission.
He said five civilians were killed and three others wounded in the bombing just two kilometers (1.2 miles) away from the Tigers' headquarters.
Sri Lankan military confirmed the raids but denied they targeted civilians.
``We have taken two targets,'' military spokesman Brig. Prasad Samarasinghe said _ a base for Sea Tigers near Mannar in the northwest, away from Kilinochchi, and a rebel training area in Kilinochchi.
Meanwhile, the defense ministry Web site accused the rebels of false propaganda on the air raids.
The report said damages to Kilinochchi hospital, as depicted in photographs published in pro-rebel Web sites would have been caused by ``recent monsoonal rains.''
The air raid was the second in as many days after failed peace talks in Geneva between the rebels and the government over the weekend.
Earlier Thursday, Tamil Tiger rebels fired artillery at troops guarding a closed highway in northern Sri Lanka, killing a soldier and wounding two, the military said.
The rebels fired artillery at a military post guarding the A-9 highway, a key artery that cuts through a vast rebel-held territory connecting the army-controlled Jaffna peninsula with the rest of Sri Lanka, Samarasinghe said.
The government has refused rebel demands to reopen the road, an issue that led to the collapse of the peace talks in Switzerland aimed at salvaging a 2002 cease-fire threatened by fighting.
Thousands of people in the north are facing severe shortages of food, medicine and other basic supplies due to the road blocks, residents say but the government argues that reopening the road will allow the rebels to freely transport their weapons and fighters.
``Naturally there has to be a calm prevailed in those areas to reopen the A-9. The LTTE is not allowing it to happen,'' Media Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa told reporters on Thursday before the air raids, calling the rebels by the acronym of their formal name, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
``While they are asking us to reopen (the road), in fact, they are sending an artillery barrage into that area,'' he said.
Tamil Tigers began fighting in 1983 for a separate homeland for ethnic Tamils in the north and east of Sri Lanka, citing discrimination by the majority Sinhalese. More than 65,000 people were killed in the conflict before the cease-fire. Another 2,000 people have been killed this year alone.
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Published: Thu Nov 2 13:39:16 EST 2006