Roadside bomb kills top Catholic priest and rights activist in the north, rebels say
Sun April 20, 2008 07:39 EDT .
COLOMBO, April 20 (Kyodo) _ Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels said Sunday a roadside bomb triggered by government soldiers killed a prominent human rights figure in rebel-held northern Sri Lanka.
Catholic priest M. X. Karunaratnam, chairman of the NorthEast Secretariat on Human Rights, or NESoHR, was killed in a claymore mine explosion in the Vanni area around 12:30 p.m. Sunday, the rebel-linked TamilNet website reported.
The area is controlled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who have been fighting for a Tamil homeland in the north and east of the country since 1983.
TamilNet alleged the attack was carried out by a deep penetration unit of the Sri Lanka Army.
Karunaratnam was described by TamilNet as the foremost human rights activist in Vanni.
NESoHR was established by the LTTE in 2004 to promote recognition and respect for the human rights of the mainly Tamil people in the northeast.
The rebel-backed body has only limited autonomy, and security constraints have restricted its access.
Of its 11 founding members, two have been gunned down --Arianayagam Chandra Nehru in February 2005 and Batticaloa legislator Joseph Pararajasingam in December that same year.
In a statement issued in reaction to Pararajasingam's death, Karunaratnam said, ''A land where human rights defenders' life can be taken away so cheaply is a damned land.''
Last month, after Tamil parliamentarian K. Sivanesan similarly died in a claymore mine explosion, the NESoHR condemned what it called the ''systematically planned killings of Tamil peoples' elected representatives one after another.''
''It is time now that the civilized world sees the pattern of killings and cry halt to this crime against people who are victims of a cruel war for over three decades,'' it said in a statement.
The LTTE has itself been accused of a series of targeted killings, most recently on April 6 when a suicide bomber assassinated Highways & Road Development Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, who was part of the government team that negotiated with the rebels in 2006.
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Published: Sun Apr 20 08:23:48 EDT 2008