Defense Ministry says Tamil Tiger rebels kill 10 civilians in southern Sri Lanka
Fri January 18, 2008 06:03 EST .
BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI - Associated Press Writer - COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - (AP) Suspected Tamil Tiger rebels fatally shot 10 ethnic Sinhalese civilians in southern Sri Lanka - , the Defense Ministry said Friday amid escalating violence following the government's withdrawal from a cease-fire with the insurgents. Violence has intensified in Sri Lanka - since the government announced two weeks ago that it would scrap the six-year-old cease-fire between the government and rebels a pact that had largely been ignored in recent years. The truce officially ended Wednesday.
Nanayakkara said a group of rebels opened fire at civilians in Thanamalwila around 10:00 p.m. Thursday, killing three and wounding three more. Insurgents then fled into nearby bushes, he said.
Police and army troops were sent to the village where they found seven more bullet-riddled bodies and launched a search for the rebels, Nanayakkara said.
In the same area, suspected Tamil rebels earlier this week bombed a civilian bus, gunned down the fleeing passengers and attacked farmers as they retreated into the forest, killing 32 people.
If the Tigers are responsible for the latest attacks, it would highlight their apparent increasing determination to hit targets in the generally peaceful south, which has an ethnic Sinhalese majority, as the military presses ahead with an offensive against rebel-held territory in the north.
The European Union said Friday that the bus attack bore the hallmarks of a rebel attack.
``This attack has the characteristics of the LTTE's modus operandi,'' the EU said in a statement using the initials of the rebels' formal name, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
``No support can ever be gained in the EU for any cause through such acts of barbaric terrorist violence. It is deeply disappointing to see this return to the type of violence as was seen in Sri Lanka - before the cease-fire agreement,'' the statement said.
The Tigers have been fighting since 1983 for an independent state in the north and east for Sri Lanka - 's ethnic Tamil minority after decades of being marginalized by Sinhalese-dominated governments. The fighting has killed more than 70,000 people.
Though scrapping the 2002 truce has had little direct impact on the raging war, the government's decision to end the deal was criticized by peace mediators and foreign governments, who worried it would make it even more difficult to end the decades-old conflict.
More than 300 people have been killed in the north in the past two weeks, according to military figures.
In the latest violence, air force jets bombed a military camp in the rebel-held northern Mullaitivu district Friday, Nanayakkara said.
He did not give details of damage or casualties, but said the pilots have confirmed that ``they hit the target.''
Separately, soldiers shot and killed a Tamil guerrilla early the same day after he tried to detonate a roadside bomb targeting patrolling troops near the eastern town of Batticaloa, Nanayakkara said.
Scattered battles throughout the north killed 13 rebels a day earlier, he said.
Rebel officials could not immediately be reached for comment on the violence. Each side often gives different accounts of the fighting, exaggerating enemy casualties while underreporting its own. Independent confirmation is unavailable since the battle zone is restricted.
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Published: Fri Jan 18 06:33:46 EST 2008