Tamil rebels kill 3 civilians, injure 10 students, 1 teacher: Sri Lanka military
Thu December 7, 2006 04:32 EST .
Associated Press Writer
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ A barrage of artillery the military said was fired by separatist Tamil Tigers hit a school and other civilian areas in northeast Sri Lanka on Thursday, killing three people and wounding 10 students and a teacher, officials said.
Military spokesman Brig. Prasad Samarasinghe said Tamil Tigers fired artillery shells into government-held Kallaru _ on the border of Trincomalee and Batticaloa districts in the northeast _ hitting the school and wounding 10 mostly Muslim and Sinhalese students and one teacher.
Hours later, another shell hit the area, killing three civilians, he said, without elaborating.
Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan denied the Tigers had fired any artillery in the region, where the military has several small bases and both the government and the rebels hold neighboring pockets of territory.
The violence comes as the government reinvoked a strict counter-terrorism law, a move one Tamil lawmaker warned could strip all ethnic Tamils of their human rights.
``From now on there is no point of talking about human rights in Sri Lanka,'' said Nallathamby Sri Kantha, a Tamil member of Parliament.
The government's decision to reinvoke the Prevention of Terrorism Act followed a suspected suicide bombing by Tamil rebels that targeted the defense secretary last week. A renewal in fighting between Tamil Tigers and the government has killed more than 3,500 people this year.
The anti-terrorism law gives state security forces sweeping powers to detain anyone without a warrant for six months, raid any home and even demolish properties considered a threat to national security.
``Even a minor offense can be treated as an act of terrorism,'' Kantha said.
The new regulations prohibit all symbols relating to terrorism, and any contact with terrorist groups. Violators can be imprisoned for up to 20 years.
``These are very vague terms and our fear is that the state security will make use of them to suppress the Tamil voice,'' Kantha said.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam _ who say they are fighting on behalf of the country's 3.1 million ethnic Tamil minority _ are banned in the United States, Britain, Canada, the EU and India.
The Cabinet decided not to ban the Tigers during a meeting Wednesday after rebel supporters warned it would effectively scupper a peace process already derailed by the spike in violence.
TamilNet, a pro-rebel Web site, criticized the regulations.
``The Cabinet decision, viewed as a major breach of the CFA (cease-fire agreement), gives excessive powers of arrest and detention to the Sri Lankan armed forces,'' the Web site said, referring to a 2002 truce left in tatters by this year's violence.
``Thousands of Tamil men, women and children were indiscriminately arrested, tortured and detained for indefinite periods under the PTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) until Colombo agreed to temporarily suspend the application of the act under the provisions of the CFA,'' TamilNet said.
The rebels have fought the government since 1983 to carve out a separate state for ethnic Tamils, citing discrimination by the majority Sinhalese. More than 65,000 people were killed before the cease-fire.
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Published: Thu Dec 7 07:42:30 EST 2006