Sri Lankan air force bombs three Tamil rebel naval bases in northwest and east
Fri November 3, 2006 02:51 EST .
Associated Press Writer
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ Sri Lanka's air force bombed three Tamil rebel naval bases Friday, a military spokesman said, deepening a crisis that risks plunging the island nation back into all-out war.
The bombers targeted two Sea Tiger bases in northwestern Mannar and one in eastern Batticaloa, spokesman Brig. Prasad Samarasinghe said. Details of casualties or damage from the raids were not immediately known.
Friday's attack was the third in as many days after weekend peace talks between the separatist rebels and the government broke down in Geneva, Switzerland over the reopening of a major highway connecting Tamil-dominated areas in the north with the rest of the country.
Air force jets bombed the Tamil rebel stronghold of Kilinochchi on Thursday, killing five Tamils, a rebel official and European truce monitors had said.
The Geneva talks were aimed at reviving a 2002 cease-fire accord that halted 19 years of fighting but has all but disintegrated amid violence that has killed at least 2,000 combatants and civilians this year.
Separately Friday, an ethnic Tamil man was shot and killed in northern Vavuniya _ a government-held town that borders rebel territory _ the pro-rebel TamilNet Web site reported. The motive for the killing was unclear.
Samarasinghe said earlier that the rebels were planning an offensive in the country's east. He said government intelligence indicated movement of fighters and weapons in the area by the Tamil Tiger rebels, formally known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE, but he declined to give details of the intelligence.
``Our intelligence reports tell us that the LTTE is planning an offensive in the east and we are prepared for that,'' Samarasinghe said.
He said 523 Tamil civilians have fled from areas under rebel control due to the outbreak of fighting in the east during the past three days. Unlike northern Sri Lanka, where the rebels control vast areas, in the east they have been weakened by a 2004 split in the rebel movement.
Two Tamil civilians were killed when the military fired mortars into a rebel-held village in the east, TamilNet reported. The military denied attacking the village.
Samarasinghe said a rebel was killed in the east late Thursday when the anti-terrorist Special Task Force responded to a guerrilla attack.
There was no independent confirmation of the rebels' alleged plans for an offensive and Tamil Tiger officials were not immediately available for comment on the offensive or the air raids.
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.
Discuss this story
Published: Fri Nov 3 04:48:40 EST 2006