The Web Sri Lanka In Focus

Friday, 29 February 2008

Explosion in Modara(video)

Source: lankantv

JVP to oppose devolution move

The Janatha Vimukthi Perumna (JVP) chief, Amarsinghe Somawansa, on Tuesday accused India of leading a campaign for “international intervention” in the name of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) the human rights of citizens, and asserted that under no circumstances would it accept any laws and measures under the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

R2P, a concept designed by the International Crisis Group (ICG), has become a major controversy in the island nation since the ICG chief visited the country a few months ago and argued that Sri Lanka is a potential case for international intervention in view of its human rights record.

In an interaction with members of Sri Lanka Foreign Correspondents Association (FCA) here, Mr. Somawansa argued that the 13th Amendment is “illegal” and was imposed against the will of the overwhelming majority of the people of the nation by India at gun point following the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987 and accused New Delhi of pressuring President Mahinda Rajapaksa to implement the 13th Amendment.

He accused India of having promoted cross-border terrorism by supporting the Tamil separatist groups in the 80’s and said a section of the Indian bureaucracy is misleading the Manmohan Singh government to return to the period of late 80’s when India intervened militarily.

“India is leading the R2P [Responsibility to Protect] evil axis in Sri Lanka. Delhi, Brussels, Oslo, Washington and Tokyo are the key partners in this campaign. We are very concerned about the evil design. We would not allow it to succeed in its designs,” Mr. Somawansa asserted.

Source: the hindu

IPTV unit launched by Sri Lanka Telecom

by Lin Freestone

Sri Lanka Telecom has set up a subsidiary to broadcast IPTV to its broadband customers.

The company plans to invest $1m in the initial launch of the SLT Visioncom unit. Sri Lanka Telecom considers that IPTV is a value-added service with strategic importance in the future broadband service portfolio of the company.

Sri Lanka’s telecommunications company had more than 54,000 ADSL broadband customers and 88,000 post-paid dial-up subscribers by the end of 2007.

Sri Lanka Telecom was the country’s first telecommunications company and is the successor to the former government owned Telecommunications Department. It leads the country’s telecommunication industry with 87% of the fixed line network.


Sri Lankan Air Force Strikes Rebel Artillery Command; 14 Dead

Siddique Islam - AHN South Asia Correspondent

Colombo, Sri Lanka (AHN) - At least 14 Tamil Tigers rebels have been killed in fierce clashes with security forces in the country's violent northern region on Thursday. Sri Lankan Air Force jets carried out air strikes on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam's (LTTE) artillery command center and an underground bunker located in Palai.

"In this attack 14 LTTE terrorists were killed and six T-56 assault riffles were recovered. Two soldiers were slightly injured in this attack," according to the Air Force.

Meanwhile, the LTTE alleged that two separate claymore mine attacks by the Sri Lankan army's deep penetration unit killed eight civilians in northern Mulaitivu on Thursday. In both incidents, the victims were traveling in tractor trailers to work in paddy fields, according to the statement.

More than 700 people have been killed in the escalating conflict since the beginning of this year, the military said

The LTTE has been fighting for a separate homeland for the ethnic minority Tamils in the north and east for more than two decades, resulting in the death of more than 70,000 people.


JVP accuses India of cross-border terrorism

Accusing India of cross-border terrorism by supporting the Tamil separatist groups, Sri Lanka’s hardline JVP Marxist party has said the country was leading an international campaign for outside intervention in the island nation’s internal affairs.
India is leading the R2P (Responsibility to Protect) evil axis in Sri Lanka. Delhi, Brussels, Oslo, Washington and Tokyo are the key partners in this campaign. We are very concerned about the evil design, leader of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), Somawansa Amarasinghe told reporters at an interaction with Sri Lanka’s Foreign Correspondents’ Association last night.
Amarasinghe said the R2P was nothing new to Sri Lanka as it has faced several interventions in the past, with India’s direct involvement in the local civil war in the late 80s being the last one.
The members of the R2P campaign are after the natural resources in other countries. This is not the Responsibility to Protect, but to Right to Plunder, Amarasinghe said.
Coming hard on India the JVP leader said, India is once again trying to force a solution on Lanka by reactivating the 13th Amendment to the constitution that devolved powers to the provinces. He said that the Provincial Council system was imposed at gun point by India on Lanka as a solution to the ethnic conflict, but ironically the system was in operation other than the Northern and Eastern provinces, which were merged illegally by India by force without the consent of majority of the people in the country.
We will reject any solution based on the 13th Amendment, because it is illegal as it stemmed out from the Indo-Lanka Accord.
We totally reject the proposals of the All Party Representatives Committee (APRC) or the 13th Amendment as much as we oppose the Indo-Lanka Accord, Amarasinghe said, adding that India was violating the Panch Sheel policies unlike China.
Pointing out that the JVP with 39 members in Parliament holds the balance of power in the current political scenario, the JVP leader said the party would vehemently oppose the implementation of the APRC proposals.
He, however, said the party was fully supportive to the current military campaign against the Tamil Tiger rebels and wanted the rebels to be completely wiped out.
We are supporting the war and believe that the national security should be ensured and separatism should be defeated at any cost, Amarasinghe said, expressing hope that the troops would capture the Wanni from the rebels very soon.


Wednesday, 27 February 2008

46 rebels, 4 soldiers killed in Sri Lanka’s fierce clashes

At least 46 Tamil Tiger rebels and four
government soldiers were killed in Monday's sporadic clashes
in the northern Jaffna and Vavuniya districts, Sri Lankan
Defence Ministry said today.
''Forty-six LTTE terrorists were killed and another 5 sustained
injuries in these clashes. Further, 4 army soldiers were killed
while 13 others received injuries during these clashes that erupted
right throughout Monday,'' the Defence Ministry here said.
It said that the government troops continued to engage in
''offensive operation'' against the LTTE inflicting heavy damages
to the rebels on several fronts.
Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan Army yesterday handed over to the
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) 14 bodies of the
Tamil Tiger rebels killed during fierce clashes with the government
troops in the north-eastern Weli-Oya areas during weekend.
Director of the Anuradhapura base hospital Dr. Sarath
Weerabandara said that of the 14 LTTE bodies handed over to the
ICRC, six were brought to the hospital on Friday evening and the
remaining eight were brought on Saturday night.


Lanka Opposition agrees to devolution package

Sri Lankan government's efforts to implement the devolution package for the embattled east and northern regions received a major boost with the main opposition party of the country agreeing to support the plan.

Sri Lanka's main opposition United National Party last night expressed its fullest support for the implementation of the 13th Amendment (for devolution) to the Constitution, after a crucial meeting between President Mahinda Rajapakse and Opposition leader Ranil Wickremasinghe on Tuesday, officials said.

Wickremasinghe said that since the interim proposals presented by the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) had included the implementation of the 13th Amendment, and since it was the law of the land, his party would not oppose as it has no objection to the implementation of existing laws.

According to an official statement issued by the government last night, the two leaders also discussed the 17th Amendment providing for Constitutional council to ensure good governance in the country.

The Opposition leader had reportedly requested the APRC to submit a report on the progress of its deliberations to date.


Sri Lanka Casualties reach 1,734

Fighting since January in northeastern Sri Lanka has killed 1,734 people, between Tamil rebels, soldiers and government police, according to sources from the Defense Minister.

Statistics released in Colombo during the course of the armed force's offensive against the positions and shelters of separatists of the Tamil Eelam Liberation Tigers (TLTE) show 1,640 of their combatants died.

Meanwhile, fatal victims between soldiers and police reached 94.

A military dispatch reported the day's actions in which two soldiers died in armed clashes in Vavuniya region; the government forces reported two deaths and four wounded.


Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Tyronne Fernando passes away

Tyronne Fernando, an advisor to the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and a former Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka under the United National Party (UNP) government earlier, passed away in a private hospital in Colombo Tuesday morning, according to Sri Lankan presidential secretariat officials. Mr. Tyronne Fernando served as the governor of North-East Province Council (NEPC) from December 2004 till January 2006.

Tyronne Fernando who aspired to contest for the post of Secretary General of the United Nations Organization (UNO), while holding the post of Foreign Minister left the United National Party (UNP) when it was ousted from power in 2004 April general election. He did not get enough preferential votes to win a parliament seat and also was not considered by the UNP hierarchy for a national MP post thereafter.

He was appointed by former SL president Chandrika Kumaratunga as the fifth governor of the NEPC.

Later, he served as advisor to the Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Source: Tamilnet

Sri Lankan gov't hands over bodies of rebels

At least 14 dead bodies of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have been handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Sri Lanka's north central town of Anuradhapura, officials said Tuesday.

Sarath Weerabandara, the director of the General Hospital in Anuradhapura told the media that the bodies were handed over to the ICRC officials who called over at the hospital in the morning.

"We handed over the bodies after the post-mortems were conducted by Dr. Ajith Mendis the Judicial Medical Officer for Anuradhapura)," Weerabandara said.

The bodies were of the LTTE members killed in fierce battles in the north and east border of Welioya over the last weekend, according to military sources.

Some 47 rebels had been killed in confrontations with the troops during Saturday and Monday in the northern and northeastern regions, the military sources said.

Sri Lankan troops are currently engaged in limited military offensives to re-capture key areas from the rebels in the country's Northern Province.

The government claimed that rebels who controlled most parts of the Northern and Eastern provinces have now been restricted to just two districts in the north.

Source: Xinhua

Monday, 25 February 2008

25 rebels, five troops killed in Sri Lanka fighting

At least 25 Tamil rebels and five soldiers have been killed in fighting in two northern districts in Sri Lanka as troops tried to recapture rebel-held areas, a military spokesman said Monday.

The incidents were reported in Mannar and Vavuniya districts, more than 250 km north of the capital Sunday, he said.

In one clash in Parappakandal, Mannar, four soldiers were killed and 11 injured while 11 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels died when troops advanced to destroy a row of bunkers Sunday, the spokesman said.

In two separate incidents in the same district, 11 rebels were killed on the same day, he said. Three more rebels and one soldier were killed in clashes in Vavuniya.

Saturday rebels set off a bomb inside a passenger bus in Mount Lavinia, Colombo injuring 18 people, but casualties were minimized because an alert passenger had informed the driver about a suspicious parcel and managed to get the passengers off the bus before the explosion.

More than 80 civilians have been killed in south by rebels since January after the government withdrew from a ceasefire agreement.


Sunday, 24 February 2008

47 Tamil Tigers killed in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan military says 47 Tamil Tigers and two soldiers, and two civilians were killed in the strife torn northern and eastern parts of the island nation since on Saterday. A spokesman at the Media Centre for National Security told AIR that 43 cadres of the Tamil outfit were gunned down during separate confrontations in Jaffna, Vavuniya and Mannar districts. Four others were killed in Weli-Oya sector, he added.

Mullikulam, Perakamam. Parappakandal, Adampan, and Muhamalai were the main war zones during the past two days. Two soldiers were killed during a confrontation in Mullikulam in Vavuniya. 15 soldiers were injured during separate confrontations, military sources added.
Two members of a newly formed political party 'Tamil Makkal Vithulai Pulikal' - TMVP) were killed in the eastern district of Batticaloa as suicide bomber rammed on the two wheeler on which they were traveling.
Meanwhile Sri Lankan air force, for the fourth consecutive day, carried out air strikes on LTTE positions on Sunday. Air force spokesman disclosed that camp of an LTTE 'area leader' at north of Giant Tank at Parappukkadantan in Mannar district was destroyed in an aerial bombing on Sunday.


Saturday, 23 February 2008

LTTE got new method of child recruitment

LTTE is continuing to "forcibly train" children with use of arms in its stronghold in northern Sri Lanka and then returning them to their normal environment, the government has alleged.

"This (LTTE) terrorist group continues recruitment and use of children as combatants and its commitment (to stop such recruitment) was never implemented," the Sri Lankan Permanent Representative to the UN, Prasad Kariyawasam, told the working group of the Security Council on Children and Armed Conflict.

Kariyawasam said the Tamil Tigers achieve their objective "by forcibly submitting the children to weapons training and thereafter returning them to their normal environment, so that they could be used for combat purposes as and when the need arises".

Evidence has now transpired that the LTTE does not permit children to pursue and successfully complete secondary education until and unless they undergo this weapons training, Kariyawasam said at the UN headquarters on Friday.

Local and international agencies compiling statistics on child recruitment do not seem to have taken cognisance of this new strategy adopted by the LTTE, the top Sri Lankan Diplomat added.

Kariyawasam also said the situation with regard to child abductions in Eastern Province has improved in a "tangible manner" after eviction of the rebels from the Eastern Province last year.

"There were no complaints recorded by law enforcement authorities in 2008 relating to abduction or recruitment of children by any armed group in the Eastern Province," he told the UN body.


Fisherman held for smuggling diesel to Sri Lanka

Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, Feb 23: Police today seized 40 litres of diesel meant for smuggling to Sri Lanka off Munthalmunai coast near Pamban and arrested a fisherman in connection with this.

Police said the fisherman S Maria Meller (30) was caught with cans, containing 40 litres of diesel, based on a tip-off.

On interrogation, it was revealed that the diesel was meant for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

He confessed that he had smuggled diesel several times to Sri Lanka in fiberglass boats provided by the LTTE.


Bus Bomb Blast in Mount Lavinia(more video)


Bus Bomb Blast in Mount Lavinia(videos)




Sri Lankan Air Force pound rebel base

The military in Sri Lanka said the Air Force took an air strike against a base of the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the north on Saturday morning.

Officials from the Defense Ministry said Air Force fighter jets raided a key LTTE military base 11 km north east of Oddusudan in the Mullaithivu district at about 6:35 a.m. local time (0105 GMT).

Pilots have confirmed that the LTTE military base has been accurately hit and the base is completely destroyed, officials said.

Intensive military conflicts are underway in the north, with the government determining to defeat the LTTE before the end of this year.

The military said more than 700 people have been killed in the escalating conflict since the beginning of this year.

The LTTE has been fighting for a separate homeland for minority Tamils in the north and east for more than two decades, resulting in the death of more than 70,000 people.

Source: Xinhua

Bomb Explodes on Bus in Sri Lanka, 18 Wounded

The series of violent event continue to be the highlight of Sri Lanka. The latest was another bomb explosion blamed on Tamil Tiger rebels, who allegedly put the bomb in a bus which exploded and wounded 18 civilians.

The blast took place in the suburb of Mount Lavinia in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, the BBC reported Saturday.

The media reports said the bomb went off after an old woman who was on that bus spotted a suspicious package. The passengers began evacuating the bus and that is when the explosion occurred, the BBC said.

A witness who spoke to Reuters said he saw the wreckage of the bus and its rear was completely blown apart. However, if it wasn’t for the old woman, many people on that bus would have died in the explosion.

Since the Sri Lankan government pulled out the ceasefire agreement last month, numerous accidents very similar to this one took place in the troubled island located south of India.

The Tamil Tigers did not made any comment about the explosion, but the usually deny the involvement in attacks increasingly focused on civilians. The attack came just a day after the Tiger accused the troops that fight for the Sri Lankan government of killing eight civilians, including three young children, in an air raid on their northern stronghold.

The conflict between the Sri Lanka's pro-government forces and the LTTE has started 24 years ago and over this period there were more than 70,000 people killed in the clashes. Two attempts of reaching peace were made, but after the last of them made during the peace-talks held in Geneva a year ago, the fighting has intensified.

The LTTE has an estimated 12,000-member land force and a 4,000-strong naval unit.


33 LTTE fighters among 35 killed in Lanka: Army

At least 33 cadres of the separatist LTTE and two soldiers were killed in fierce clashes in the embattled northern Sri Lanka as fighter jets targeted a rebel stronghold in the island nation, the army said on Saturday.

"Sri Lankan Air Force Jet aircraft this morning targeted a militant camp at north-east of Oddusuddan area in northern Sri Lanka," the Defence Ministry said, adding pilots confirmed the target was engaged successfully.

In ground clashes, at least five militants of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were killed in Janakapura area in north-eastern Welioya on Friday, the Media Centre for National Security (MCNS) said.

Separately at Adankulam in Welioya, troops killed four militants in a clash on Friday, it said, adding one soldier also lost his life in the confrontation.

In another clash in the same area later in the day on Friday, troops killed four more militants, the army said in a statement.

Meanwhile, one Tamil Tiger rebel was gunned down in a clash at Muhamale in Jaffna peninsula on Saturday, the defence ministry said.

Troops killed one LTTE fighter in Mullikulam in Mannar on Friday, the army said, adding it lost one security forces personnel.

In intense clashes in Kallikulam in Northern Vavuniya, troops said they killed seven militants and injured three on Friday, according to the defence ministry.

Source: Times of India

LTTE claim refuted

B. Muralidhar Reddy

The LTTE alleged on Friday that eight civilians, including three pre-school children, were killed and 10 were injured, four of them critically, when Sri Lanka bombed a coastal civilian settlement in the Kiranchi area in Poonahari in the Kilinochchi district.

However, the Air Force said it bombed “carefully identified” LTTE targets.

The Defence Ministry said here the jets had bombed two artillery positions of the LTTE terrorists located in the North of Mannar and Mulllaittivu areas.

It said the first air sortie was conducted around 12 noon in the Mannar area while the second at 1p.m in the Mulllaittivu area. “Fighter pilots have confirmed that the targets were accurately hit.”

The Ministry said the terrorists had been firing heavy artillery towards Mannar and Welioya Forward Defence Lines (FDLs) using guns located at the targeted locations. Recently, the LTTE terrorists fired at St. Anthony’s church, Thalladi, destroying the building and killing six soldiers engaged in cleaning and maintenance work, it said.

The Ministry said the jets had also bombed an “inland Sea Tiger base” at Kiranchchi, west of Kilinochchi.


Friday, 22 February 2008

Sri Lanka raid 'kills civilians'

An air strike has killed at least five civilians in territory controlled by the Tamil Tiger rebels in northern Sri Lanka, hospital officials say.

At least two of the dead are said to be children from the same family.

Sri Lanka's government said its air force had attacked a boatyard used by the rebels near Kilinochchi town.

There is no independent confirmation of the casualties. The government has claimed repeated successes against the rebels in recent weeks.

In January, Sri Lanka's government formally withdrew from a truce deal that had become increasingly obsolete amid rising violence.

Tamil Tiger rebels control a swathe of territory in the north of the island and are fighting for an independent state.

Both rebels and the military accuse each other of targeting civilians.

UN visit

Friday's air raid, west of Kilinochchi, killed five civilians, local hospital officials said.

Another 14 people were reportedly hurt in the attack.

A local man told the BBC his wife and two children were killed when a bomb fell near a bunker. A third child was badly hurt, the man said.

The Tamil Tiger rebels said eight people had died in Friday's attack, three of them children.

Journalists are not allowed to enter rebel-held territory, making it hard to confirm casualty figures.

Both sides have been accused of exaggerating the number of enemy casualties.

An international human rights group on Thursday called on the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels for using child soldiers.

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) report also accused the government of ignoring child recruitment by an allied paramilitary force.

The report came as a UN envoy began a visit to the island nation to assess the UN mission there.

The Tigers have been fighting for an independent state in the north and east since 1983. The government pushed them out of their strongholds in the east last year.

More than 70,000 people have been killed since the civil war began.

Source: BBC

45 killed in Lankan ground clashes, air force bombs Kilinochchi

At least 43 LTTE militants and two soldiers were killed in fierce ground clashes in the embattled Northern Sri Lanka as air force fighter jets pounded a rebel stronghold, officials said on Friday.

"Sri Lankan Air Force fighter jets made offensive sorties at an inland sea Tiger base this morning at Kiranchchi, west of Kilinochchi," the Media Centre for National Security (MCNS) said.

The air raid was conducted around 8:15 am, it said adding "pilots have confirmed completing the mission successfully".

In ground clashes between the LTTE and security forces, five militants were killed in two separate confrontations in North-Western Mannar yesterday, the army said.

Three rebels were gunned down in Parappakandal area in the region on Thursday in another confrontation.

Also, eight LTTE rebels were killed in west Mullikulam area of Vavuniya yesterday while another militant was killed elsewhere in the region on Thursday, the Defence ministry said.

Meanwhile, in clashes at the Northeastern Welioya, troops killed six LTTE cadres yesterday, the army said.

In Karampaikulam area of Mannar, troops killed four Tiger militants yesterday, the army said adding two soldiers also lost their lives in the confrontation.

Source: Hindu

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Update: 95 killed in Sri Lanka, Air Force bombs LTTE strong hold

At least 92 Tamil Tigers and three soldiers were killed in intensified fighting in Sri Lanka's embattled north as the security forces said they have reclaimed some rebel-held areas in Mannar in the offensive.

Sri Lankan Air Force also targeted the rebel strongholds of Mannar and Mullaitivu to facilitate the ground attack.

The military offensive to liberate the Wanni region from LTTE yesterday reached a decisive stage as troops obtained domination over the outskirts of Adampan in North-western Mannar, the defence ministry said in a statement today.

As per the military reports received from the Northern battlefronts, at least 92 LTTE cadres were killed and over 15 injured during yesterday's confrontations.

Thirty LTTE cadres were killed by security forces in the north of Parappakandal in Mannar yesterday, the Defence Ministry said.

Separately, at least 13 rebels were killed in clashes in the west of Parapakandal and north of Pallaikuli in Mannar yesterday, the Media Centre for National Security (MCNS) said.

Two soldiers also lost their lives in the confrontations, it said

Source: PTI

Tamil Tiger UN sanctions demand

An international human rights group has called on the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels for using child soldiers.

A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report has also accused the government of ignoring child recruitment by an allied paramilitary force.

HRW made its allegations as UN experts met to discuss the use of underage soldiers in the Sri Lankan war.

A UN envoy is visiting the island nation to assess the conflict.

Problem continues

"The Security Council should punish their brazen violations with concrete action," HRW child rights advocate Jo Becker said.

Correspondents say that international rights groups have for many years criticised the Tamil Tigers and other armed groups in Sri Lanka for forcibly recruiting children.

The rebels have consistently promised to stop using them.

HRW says that while there is evidence that the recruitment of children has dropped significantly, the problem continues.

According to the UN children's agency, Unicef, there were at least 196 children in the guerrilla force at the end of January.

HRW have also accused the breakaway Tamil Tiger faction led by Col Karuna of recruiting child soldiers.


Col Karuna - who is currently serving a nine month prison sentence in Britain for identity fraud - is now allied with the government.

Ms Becker said that the Tigers and Col Karuna "continue to use children to fight their battles in clear violation of international law and Security Council resolutions".

The Sri Lankan government has sent a three-member team to New York to present its case to UN experts meeting to discuss the problem of child soldiers in Sri Lanka.

"Our position, as far as the government is concerned, has always been a zero tolerance policy on child recruitment," said , said Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe.

Rebel spokesmen were not available for comment.

But in the past they have insisted that they are abiding by pledges to stop using child soldiers.

The Tigers have been fighting for an independent state in the north and east since 1983. More than 70,000 people have been killed since then.

They say that ethnic minority Tamils have been marginalised for decades by governments dominated by the Sinhalese majority.

Source: BBC

German mob brutalises Sri Lankan man

Goslar, Germany - A man from Sri Lanka was recovering in hospital on Thursday after being attacked by a mob of Germans on a street, police said.

The 43-year-old suffered severe concussion and bruising during Wednesday night's assault in the town of Goslar, 210km south west of Berlin.

A total of 12 men were involved in the attack, punching and kicking their victim and hitting him with a walking stick. They only stopped when the man lay motionless on the ground, police said.

A police spokesperson said the motive was not immediately clear. The attackers did not appear to be right-wing skinheads, she added.

Racially motivated attacks against foreigners are not unusual in Germany, which has 6,74 million non-Germans in a population of 82 million.

Last weekend, two Vietnamese women and a Lebanese taxi driver were beaten up in Berlin.

In a case that made international headlines, a mob of Germans chased a group of Indians through the east German town of Muegeln and beat them last August.

The leader of the mob was given an eight-month jail term, another received a suspended sentence and a third was fined


Five held for trying to smuggle materials to Lanka

Five persons, including a Sri Lankan Tamil refugee, were arrested today for attempting to smuggle materials including surgical equipment to Sri Lanka, police said.

The Officials said a Q-Branch police DSP who was on patrol duty near Panaikulam in Ramanathapuram district kept a close watch on two persons who were waiting on a bike.

A van and a mini-lorry carrying the contraband arrived at the spot after some time. But on seeing the Q-branch personnel, the driver of the lorry drove away, police said.

However,the van was detained. On search, it was found to carry some cosmetics,surgical equipment, and 'Bunker' bags, they said.

The Sri Lankan Tamil refugee was arrested for arranging money for the smugglers and staying at Paramakudi,police said.

The van and the bike used by the smugglers had been impounded and a hunt had been launched to seize the mini-lorry, which police suspect carried more contraband, the officials said.

They also seized some cell phones.

Police are maintaining strict vigil in the wake of reports of gangs smuggling materials for the LTTE.


Sri Lankan Tamil separatists hail Kosovo's independence declaration

Separatist Sri Lankan Tamils have hailed the emergence of an independent Kosovo with Western support, saying it augurs well for the liberation of "oppressed" minorities like the Tamils of northeast Sri Lanka.

Most Sri Lankans do not relish the prospect of their small island country breaking up on the prodding of powerful Western nations. But while radicals like the Janatha Vimukthi Permuna (JVP) would like the Mahinda Rajapaksa government to take a strong anti-West stance, the liberals are urging restraint on the plea that belligerence will only provoke the West to side with the Tamil separatists when it comes to the crunch.

According to IANS, the Colombo-based radical Tamil daily Sudar Oli in its editorial said it was not surprising that the Sri Lankan government was the first to condemn Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) Sunday.

The paper pointed out that not only Sri Lanka but other nations that faced the prospect of oppressed minority groups seceding had also got the jitters and condemned Kosovo's emergence as an independent state.

It was noteworthy that Kosovo's UDI had the backing of the US and Europe, the paper said. It then went on to argue that Russia, Serbia and other nations opposed to the emergence of Kosovo as an independent country would not be able to prevent it.

"Kosovo's independence is a historical necessity, an unavoidable event," Sudar Oli asserted in the editorial.

Colombo, which dubbed the UDI as a grave threat, was aware that if Kosovo - with 4,200 sq miles and a population of two million - could be independent, 'Tamil Eelam' - with 7,500 sq miles and a population of four million - would have a stronger case for seeking autonomy, Sudar Oli said.

Moreover, the Tamils of the Sri Lanka's north and east had declared independence as their goal way back in 1977 and had made that known to the international community.

With a separate language and culture and a distinct territorial homeland, Sri Lankan Tamils had all the attributes to constitute a nation state, but the Sri Lankan state had suppressed and oppressed them, the daily said.

It was not surprising that the Sri Lankan state was unable to digest the liberation of the people of Kosovo whose attributes and claims were similar to those of the Tamils of Sri Lanka, it added.

"Kosovo shows that the chains of oppression will not last and that some day, they will break," the Tamil paper said.


67 LTTE cadres, 3 soldiers killed in Lanka clashes

At least 67 Tamil Tigers and three soldiers were killed in fierce clashes in Sri Lanka's embattled northern region, officials here said on Thursday.

Thirty LTTE cadres were killed by security forces in the north of Parappakandal in Mannar on Wednesday, the Defence Ministry said.

According to Wanni military sources, Sri Lankan troops "successfully counter attacked an LTTE offensive movement towards the newly consolidated defences at Parappakanda," it said in a statement.

Five soldiers also sustained injuries in the confrontation, military sources said.

Separately, at least 13 rebels were killed in clashes in the west of Parapakandal and north of Pallaikuli in Mannar yesterday, the Media Centre for National Security (MCNS) said.

Two soldiers also lost their lives in the confrontations, it said.

In Janakapura in northeastern Welioya, at least ten Tiger cadres were gunned down by troops yesterday, the army said, adding one soldier also died in the incident.

In another incident, eight rebels were killed and three wounded in an attack by the security forces in the north of Villathikulam in Vavuniya yesterday, the army said.

Also, intense clashes between army and the rebels at Kallikulam in Vavuniya left six LTTE cadres dead yesterday, the Defence Ministry, said adding "the enemy transmissions confirmed their losses with several more militants either wounded or killed."


LTTE to blame, says NGO

B. Muralidhar Reddy

COLOMBO: The International Crisis Group, a multi-national NGO focusing on conflict zones, said in a report on Wednesday, “With Sri Lanka again in civil war, the international community must concentrate on protecting civilians from the war’s worst effects and supporting those working to preserve its embattled democratic institutions.”

Titled “Sri Lanka’s Return to War: Limiting the Damage,” the latest ICG report explores the costs and likely course of the conflict, which has “no resolution in sight”.

“The government’s desire to defeat the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam [LTTE] and end the war definitively is understandable. But by failing to protect human rights or share power with moderate, unarmed Tamil and Muslim political forces, its military approach has strengthened extremists on both sides in an escalating cycle of violence,” it said.

As per the ICG, much of the blame for the resumption in violence lies with the LTTE. “Its ceasefire violations and abuses of the population under its control helped push the government towards war. However, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has also overplayed his hand.”

Meanwhile, three soldiers and dozens of Tiger cadre were killed along the Forward Defence Lines (FDLs), said the military.


Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Sri Lanka's Return to War: Limiting the Damage(REPORT)


Sri Lanka is in civil war again, and there are no prospects of a peace process resuming soon. On 2 January 2008, the government announced its withdrawal from a ceasefire agreement with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). This formalised a return to conflict that has been underway since 2006 but also presaged worse to come. The humanitarian crisis is deepening, abuses of human rights by both sides are increasing, and those calling for peace are being silenced. There is no present chance of a new ceasefire or negotiations since the government, despite pro forma statements in favour of a political solution, is dependent on hardliners and appears intent on a military decision. International actors must concentrate for now on damage limitation: protecting civilians from the war’s worst effects and supporting those working to preserve Sri Lanka’s democratic institutions.

In addition to heavy fighting in the north, the first weeks of 2008 have seen the assassinations of a government minister and a Tamil opposition member of parliament, multiple bombings in Colombo, a wave of deadly attacks on civilians in the majority Sinhalese south, and widespread disappearances and killings of non-combantants in the north and east. More than 5,000 combatants and civilians are estimated to have been killed over the past two years. At least 140,000 have fled intensified fighting in the north, and more are likely to be forced out if the military continues its push into Tiger-controlled territory. If the government’s military approach in the east is a precedent for its conduct of the northern campaign, civilians and their property are at grave risk.

Much of the blame for the resumption in violence lies with the LTTE; its ceasefire violations and abuses of the population under its control pushed the government towards war. The Tiger strategy was to shore up internal support by provoking a Sinhala nationalist reaction; it worked, although the insurgents may come to regret their approach. President Mahinda Rajapaksa has also overplayed his hand. Relying on support from Sinhala extremists, he has let them set an agenda that allows only for a military approach.

The military and much of the government leadership believe they can defeat or permanently weaken the Tigers by the end of 2008. The LTTE has been badly hurt over the past eighteen months: it has lost the areas it controlled in the Eastern Province; its arms routes have been disrupted; hundreds, perhaps thousands, of its fighters have been killed; and senior commanders are now vulnerable to targeted elimination, either from air force bombs or special forces. But the Tigers remain a formidable fighting force. While the army has been inching forward in the north, they are fighting back from well-defended positions. Even assuming the Tigers can be defeated militarily, it remains unclear how the government would pacify and control the large Tamil-speaking areas in the north that have been under LTTE domination for a decade or more.

The government argues its military campaign will clear the way for a political solution. Vowing to “eradicate terrorism”, it says it aims to destroy the Tigers or force them to disarm and enter democratic politics and negotiations alongside other Tamil and Muslim parties. But after promising for more than a year to undertake substantial constitutional reforms once the All-Party Representative Committee (APRC) recommended them, it now proposes only to “fully implement” the constitution’s long-existing Thirteenth Amendment. The limited devolved powers for the north and east that this would represent are unlikely even in the best case to be sufficient to win over many Tamils or Muslims, though they could be a useful start if implemented sincerely. Since President Rajapaksa has chosen to depend on strongly Sinhala nationalist parties for his government’s survival, however, this seems unlikely.

Meanwhile, ethnic divisions are deepening. The humanitarian costs of the war are concentrated in Tamil-speaking areas. In Colombo, security forces have conducted large, often indiscriminate arrests of Tamils under emergency regulations. But Muslims are under pressure from both the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP), a paramilitary group which broke from the Tigers and operates with the government’s blessing, and government-sponsored land and administrative changes. The much touted “liberation” of the Eastern Province has failed to bring development or democracy; instead it has been characterised by military rule and rising ethnic tensions. The government will lose an opportunity to set up a democratic alternative to the LTTE in the east if it fails to rein in the TMVP ahead of a series of elections scheduled to begin in March 2008.

The human rights and governance crisis continues unabated, with paralysis of the institutions empowered to investigate and prosecute, and consequent impunity for abusers. The many ad hoc commissions of inquiry of the past two years have accomplished nothing, while disappearances and political killings continue, especially in Jaffna and other parts of the north. Both the Tigers and the TMVP continue to recruit and make use of child soldiers, despite repeated pledges to UN agencies and others not to.

The current conflict is worse than what preceded the 2002 ceasefire. The government’s counter-insurgency campaign is more brutal and indiscriminate, the terror and criminal activities of its Tamil proxy forces more extensive and blatant, and the role of chauvinistic Sinhala ideologues in government more pronounced. The suspected involvement of pro-government forces in the assassinations of Tamil politicians is particularly disturbing. The Tigers have fully militarised life in areas under their control and returned to brutal attacks on Sinhalese civilians, intent on provoking even worse retaliation.

As unpromising as present circumstances are, the government should be alert to any opportunities that arise to promote a new peace process. Meanwhile, the international community needs to use its limited leverage for the time being to prevent further deterioration, while developing strategies to strengthen the moderate, non-violent forces still committed to a peaceful and just settlement and to build the middle ground – significantly beyond the unitary state but far short of a separate Tamil state – that will be necessary if a lasting political solution is to gain traction once political conditions are better. This will require pressing the Tigers and their supporters to abandon terrorism and separatism, while simultaneously encouraging a new consensus in the south in support of constitutional and state reforms.


To the Government of Sri Lanka:

1. Meet basic humanitarian needs and protect civilians from the effects of war by:

(a) conducting all military operations in strict accordance with international law;

(b) guaranteeing full and prompt access for UN agencies and humanitarian organisations, with adequate medical supplies, to LTTE-controlled areas; and

(c) defending UN agencies and international humanitarian organisations against unfounded allegations by hardline politicians and parties and guaranteeing the safety of all humanitarian workers, Sri Lankan and foreign.

2. Take all necessary steps to protect the fundamental human rights of all citizens, including:

(a) conducting anti-terrorist operations in accordance with both domestic constitutional guarantees and international human rights and humanitarian law;

(b) investigating fully all allegations of disappearances and killings carried out by state forces or militant groups aligned with the state and prosecuting when credible evidence is available;

(c) passing through parliament a witness protection law that takes into account suggestions from civil society organisations and the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP);

(d) accepting the proposed UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) office in Sri Lanka with adequate powers to monitor and report on human rights violations throughout the country; and

(e) guaranteeing the protection of media personnel and investigating fully recent attacks on journalists.

3. Develop the Eastern Province equitably, transparently, inclusively and effectively by:

(a) delaying local and provincial elections until the illegal activities of all armed groups, including the TMVP, are curtailed and adequate security for all political parties is guaranteed by the police and legitimate security forces;

(b) ending de facto military rule over large parts of the Eastern Province and ensuring that politicians and civil servants of all ethnicities have a major role in planning and decision making; and

(c) guaranteeing full access for UN agencies and humanitarian organisations in the newly cleared areas.

4. Pursue vigorously political reforms that address the legitimate rights and needs of all citizens and ethnic communities in a united and democratic Sri Lanka by:

(a) granting the Eastern Provincial Council, once constituted, all allowable powers under the Thirteenth Amendment, including for police, finance, land and education;

(b) publicly commiting to pursue in the near future more substantial constitutional reforms, including power-sharing at the centre; and

(c) requesting the APRC to publish its proposals for constitutional reforms by the Sinhala and Tamil New Year (mid-April 2008), even if full consensus has not been reached.

To the President:

5. Establish immediately the Constitutional Council and request it to nominate new members to all independent commissions.

To all Political Parties:

6. Monitor closely implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment, work to ensure that maximum powers are granted to the Eastern Provincial Council once it is established after free and fair elections, and press the government to keep constitutional reform high on the agenda.

To the Constituent Parties of the All-Party Representative Committee (APRC):

7. Submit final proposals for constitutional reforms, including power sharing, by mid-April 2008, if necessary with majority and minority reports.

To the United National Party:

8. State publicly willingness to support in parliament reasonable devolution and power-sharing proposals that go beyond the limits of the unitary state, once these are submitted by the APRC.

To the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eeelam (LTTE):

9. Cease all attacks on civilians, suicide bombings, forced recruitment and repression of media freedom and political dissent and respect fully international human rights and humanitarian law.

10. Abandon publicly the demand for an independent Tamil state (Eelam) and announce willingness to negotiate within the framework of a united Sri Lanka.

To the International Community, in particular Japan, Norway, the EU, the U.S., India, Australia, South Korea and Other Asian States, as well as the United Nations:

11. Recognise that the 2002 peace process having now run its course:

(a) the Co-Chairs of the Tokyo Donors Conference (Norway, Japan, the U.S. and the EU) no longer have, as such, a clear peacemaking role; and

(b) there needs to be deepened cooperation between India, the EU and the U.S., with the goal of eventually developing a more politically powerful contact group.

12. Strengthen efforts to convince the government to accept a fully staffed UNHCHR office, able to monitor and report on rights violations throughout the country.

13. Continue support for constitutional power-sharing reform to address legitimate minority grievances, monitor Thirteenth Amendment implementation and urge the APRC to submit its proposals by mid-April 2008.

14. Strengthen efforts to close down the LTTE’s global financing and supply networks.

15. Cooperate with UK authorities in gathering evidence for possible prosecution of former TMVP leader Karuna on war crimes and human rights violations charges.

16. Speak out more regularly in defence of UN agencies and international humanitarian organisations and for the safety of all humanitarian workers, Sri Lankan and foreign.

To Donor Governments and International Financial Institutions:

17. Promote respect for the Guiding Principles for Humanitarian and Development Assistance agreed by donors and the Sri Lankan government in 2007 by forming a donor task force to investigate political and conflict dynamics in the Eastern Province and report publicly on the best way to ensure equity, inclusiveness and transparency.

To the United Nations Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict:

18. Recommend that the Security Council impose targeted sanctions on both the Tigers and the TMVP for continued recruitment and use of child soldiers.

Colombo/Brussels, 20 February 2008


28 killed in LTTE-Army clashes

At least 25 LTTE militants and three Sri Lankan soldiers were killed in fierce clashes between security forces and Tamil Tiger rebels in the island nation's embattled north and southern region, the Defence Ministry said on Wednesday.

"At least 23 LTTE rebels were reported killed and 10 wounded in clashes between troops and Tamil Tiger rebels at the Wanni (in the north) and Northern fronts on Thursday," it said.

Meanwhile, two LTTE militants were shot on Thursday during a confrontation near Northern Vavuniya, the Media Centre for National Security said.

In southern Sri Lanka, three soldiers were killed on Wednesday in a LTTE attack at a picket point at Dambakote, Buttala, it said.

It is believed that the LTTE militants also sustained damages during retaliation by security forces, it said.

Additional troops have already been sent to tighten the security in the area and search operations were now underway, it added.

Source: timesofindia

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Three arrested for threatening candidates in E Sri Lanka

At least three people have been arrested for issuing threats to candidates ahead of local elections in eastern Sri Lanka, police said Tuesday.

A police spokesman in the Batticaloa district told Xinhua by phone that three people, all Muslims from the Kathankudy area were arrested alongside printed material which had been used to issue death threats on candidates.

The Batticaloa district is scheduled to hold elections on March10 to appoint local councilors to nine local councils.

The candidates from the TMVP (Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal) party had complained of death threats received allegedly from Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels.

The three people arrested will be investigated for their links with the LTTE, the police said.

The election in the east will be the first since the government in July 2007 claimed that the entire Eastern Province had been cleared of Tamil Tiger rebels.

The independent election monitoring group, People's Action for Free and Fair Elections has said armed groups roaming around in the area pose a threat to the prospect of a free and fair election.

The government now say that provincial council elections in the Eastern Province will also be held in the near future as the government is in full control in the region.


2 soldiers, 25 Tamil Tigers killed in Lanka clashes

At two soldiers and 25 Tamil Tigers were killed in fierce clashes in Sri Lanka's embattled northern region, officials said in Colombo on Tuesday.

As many as seven Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE) rebels were killed in a confrontation with the security forces at the Giant Tank area in Vavuniya Monday, PTI reported here quoting official sources.

The bodies would be handed over to the International Red Cross Committee soon, officials said.

Another 10 rebels were killed in a spate of clashes in the northeast of Uilankulam in Mannar, the Defense Ministry said.

The clashes also left two soldiers dead and nine injured, it said.

Separately, security forces found bodies of two LTTE cadres in the general area of Pallaikuli in Mannar after clashes, the army said.

In another incident in north of Parappakandal in Mannar, troops captured four LTTE bunkers in a raid Monday that left at least six rebels dead and 10 wounded, the Defense Ministry said.


Monday, 18 February 2008

Church leader in fresh call for peace in Sri Lanka

By: George Conger.

THE INTENSIFICATION of the civil war in Sri Lanka has elicited renewed calls for peace from the Anglican Church of Ceylon.

The Bishop of Colombo, the Rt Rev Duleep de Chickera (pictured) has condemned government air attacks on Tamil villages in northern Sri Lanka sheltering Tamil Tiger rebels, [LTTE] and the LTTE terror bombing campaign targeting Sinhalese civilian.

"The recent spate of calculated mayhem targeted against innocent civilians that collectively killed scores of civilians including school children, and injured many more,” he said on Feb 7, “must be condemned without reservation."

The terrorist attacks demonstrated a “total disregard” for human life and were “counterproductive” to the cause of Tamil independence. The LTTE attacks were stiffening the resolve of the government not to give in to terrorism and were leading “to the conversion of moderates to extremism,” he said.

He also noted his “great concern” about government air attacks on rebel-controlled bases. Two church-run orphanages were in rebel territory he said. These children “live in fear and have nowhere to run except into their bunkers when the planes arrive. Please do everything possible to avoid harming these little ones,” he asked the government.

Bishop de Chickera urged Sri Lankans of all ethnic backgrounds “to remain calm under provocation and to do all we can to strengthen understanding and peaceful coexistence,” between the country’s ethnic communities.

Jayalalitha telling ‘a bundle of lies’: Karunanidhi

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi Monday accused archrival J. Jayalalitha of “telling a bundle of lies” about the DMK government’s support to Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger rebels, saying her “only aim is to get the DMK government dismissed”. He was responding to the AIADMK leader’s statements in an interview to her party’s television channel, Jaya TV, Sunday night. In the interview, the former chief minister said AIADMK MPs would raise in parliament the issue of DMK encouraging the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Accusing the central government of “lacking political will to do so”, Jayalalitha said her MPs “will seek the cooperation of parties that have faith in the sovereignty of the nation and concern for national security” to “seek the dismissal of the Karunanidhi government on this count (support to the LTTE)”.

In a six-page statement countering the AIADMK leader’s charges, Karunanidhi denied that his regime was “soft on the LTTE”.

He also recalled Supreme Court judges S. Rajendra Babu and G.P. Mathur’s interpretation that a section (3-1) of the draconian Prevention Of Terrorism Act could be construed to be terrorism only if support to extremist outfits led to terror against the state and people, and that mere oral support was not a crime.

Karunanidhi has earlier drawn flak for his ode to slain LTTE leader S.P. Thamilchelvan, who was killed in a bombing raid by the Sri Lanka Air Force in November.


Soldiers capture a rebel bunker line as fighting kills 11

Sri Lankan soldiers pushed across the front lines and captured a line of strategic rebel bunkers after a battle Monday that killed 10 rebels and one soldier, the military said.

Backed by mortar and artillery fire, army troops captured a 600-meter-long line of bunkers in northern Mannar district following a two-hour battle that also injured four soldiers, said Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara, the military spokesman.

Though small, the stretch will be an advantage to the military's push to take rebel-held territories in Mannar district, Nanayakkara said.

Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan did not answer calls seeking comment.

It was not possible to independently verify the reports because of limited access to the northern jungles where the fighting took place. Both sides often inflate their opponents' casualty figures while minimizing their own.

Violence has escalated on the Indian Ocean island since the government withdrew last month from a 2002 cease-fire with the Tamil rebels.

The Tamil Tigers have been fighting since 1983 for an independent homeland for ethnic minority Tamils, who have been marginalized for decades by Sinhalese-dominated governments. The fighting has killed more than 70,000 people.

Government troops last year drove the guerrillas from their eastern strongholds and in recent months fighting has raged around the rebels' de facto state in the north.

The 2002 truce fostered hopes for a lasting peace, but broke down as fighting over the past two years killed 5,000 people.

Nearly 1,500 people have been killed since the government announced its withdrawal from the cease-fire, according to the military.


more tax on cars to cut imports & 135% rise in electricity

Sri Lanka has further raised taxes on cars to discourage imports and save foreign exchange, officials said Monday.

The new tax, which adds 10-percent import duty on cars and vans, is to be rubber-stamped by parliament this month although customs authorities have been collecting it since January.

Sri Lanka has no car manufacturing industry and imports mainly from Asia and Europe with duties ranging from 250 to 350 percent before the new tax.

The finance ministry said the hike is also to discourage imports and save foreign exchange.

The island's overall imports jumped 10.2 percent in 2007 to 11.30 billion dollars, the central bank said last week. Petroleum products accounted for nearly 60 percent of import costs.

Total vehicle registrations in 2007 was flat at 278,000, according to customs figures.

'We have seen a 25 to 30 percent drop in overall vehicle sales in the past year alone. The taxes makes it impossible for first time buyers to own a vehicle,' said Ranjan de Silva of the Motor Traders Association.

The price of a second hand, four-year-old Toyota (nyse: TM - news - people ) Corolla will reach 40,000 dollars, car dealers said.

'Right now, we can't dispose the stocks we have in hand, let alone import new ones,' said Berty Widanagamage, spokesman for the Used Vehicle Importers Association of Sri Lanka.

'Interest rates are over 20 percent, inflation is over 21 percent and even leasing companies are feeling the pinch. We are finding it very difficult to survive,' he said.

Prices of essentials have soared as the government pours 1.5 billion dollars to fight Tamil Tiger rebels this year, up 20 percent from last year.

Electricity charges are set to go up by 135 percent from March, under a hike proposed by the state-run Ceylon Electricity Board monopoly.

Source: forbes

Asian countries fearful over Kosovo independence

The unilateral secession of the Albanian Kosovars risks being "an unmanageable precedent" for all groups aspiring to independence. China, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and Israel are concerned over the consequences for Taiwan, Tamil, Aceh, Palestine.

The declaration of Kosovo's independence is generating fear in many Asian nations, above all those made up of various ethnic groups. They are afraid that Kosovo's unilateral independence could be a model for many other groups, leading to the disintegration of countries like China, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and even India.

Yesterday, the Kosovar parliament unanimously (and unilaterally) declared its independence from Serbia. The region, which now has an overwhelmingly Albanian and Muslim majority population, has separated from the rest of Serbia, which is of Slavic and Orthodox tradition.

The decision, which has long been supported by the United States, has created joy in Kosovo, but great concern in the world. Various countries of the European Union - Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy - are ready to recognise the new country, together with the U.S.

Russia, allied with Serbia, asked overnight for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, and obtained a more formal and extensive meeting on the topic for tomorrow afternoon.

Russia criticises the decision and highlights the difficulties of guaranteeing the safety of the 120,000 Serbians who live in Kosovo. But it fears above all that the push for independence will spread through various regions of Russia, leading to division in the federation. In the same way, Spain will not recognise Kosovo, fearing the encouragement for Basque and Catalan separatists.

In Asia, the independence of Kosovo is seen as a threatening model. China, which is fearful of seeing Taiwan take the same step, today declared its "deep concern" over Kosovo's unilateral decision, and asked the Serbian and Albanian Kosovars to find 'a 'proper solution through negotiations''.

Taiwan, on the other hand, is celebrating and congratulating Kosovo. A declaration from the foreign minister affirms that "self-determination is a right recognised by the United Nations, and it is the people who are masters of their nation's future". Taiwan, considered a "rebel" island by China, has tried dozens of times to be recognised by the UN, but has always found itself blocked by Beijing and its allies. "In no way", continues the Taiwanese declaration, "should the independence of one nation be denied by another ".

Indonesia, which has a war for the independence of Aceh behind it and is composed of many ethnic groups, has declared that it is "not yet in a position to recognise Kosovo's statehood". But Indonesian Islamic groups are celebrating the declaration of independence of the Kosovars, who are Muslims. But Abdillah Toha, a member of the parliamentary commission, has said that in all likelihood, if the UN votes on the independence of Kosovo, Indonesia will abstain from voting.

Sri Lanka, which has been fighting against Tamil efforts for independence for 20 years, declared today that the move by Kosovo could create "an unmanageable precedent in the conduct of international relations". The foreign minister in Colombo does not support the secession of Kosovo, because it "poses a grave threat to international peace and security".

In the Philippines, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has declared that with the move by Kosovo "the taboo" of the unwritten rules of the United Nations safeguarding the integrity of the countries that it recognises "has been shattered". After years of fighting for the independence of Mindanao, the Front has agreed to open talks with the government, setting aside the goal of independence and asking only for administrative autonomy for the southern region. "What is prohibited for decades", says Khaled Musa, deputy chairman of the Front, "is now a virtual part of international law".

Israel is looking with concern and reservation at what it calls "the unilateral secession" of Kosovo, because this could have implications on the Palestinian issue.

The Israeli foreign minister said yesterday in a terse statement that it is "following the developments" of the situation and will express itself in the future.


Animal rights group protests LTTE attack on zoo

An international animal rights organisation has protested the bombing of a zoo in Dehiwela in Sri Lanka, allegedly by Tamil Tiger rebels earlier this month.

"In addition to injuring several human beings - which was no doubt its intent - the explosive device that was set off near the zoo's birds enclosure terrified many animals in the zoo," said Ingrid E. Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in a letter to the Tamil Tiger leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran.

At least seven people, including two children, were injured, when a grenade kept near the birds' enclosure went off Feb 3.

Newkirk said that animals got caught in the cross fire of wars all over the world and countless animals were being killed either intentionally or accidentally in bomb attacks worldwide.

"Al Qaeda and the British government have used animals in hideously cruel biological weaponry tests, and the US Army abandoned thousands of loyal service dogs at the end of the war in Vietnam," she pointed out.

"If you have the opportunity, will you please consider my request and appeal to all those who listen to you to leave animals out of the conflict?" Newkirk asked Prabhakaran.


Sri Lanka says Kosovo decision a threat to nations

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka, fighting a 25-year insurgency by Tamil separatists, said it was concerned about Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence as it could set a precedent in other parts of the world and hurt nations.

"The Unilateral Declaration of Independence by Kosovo could set an unmanageable precedent in the conduct of international relations, the established global order of sovereign States and could thus pose a grave threat to international peace and security," the Foreign ministry said in a statement.

Sri Lanka's Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have been fighting for an independent homeland for minority Tamils in the east and north of the island. More than 70,000 people have been killed since 1983.

Colombo has vowed to crush the rebels militarily.

"This action by Kosovo is a violation of the Charter of the United Nations, which enshrines the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Member States," the statement said.

Kosovo Albanians declared independence on Sunday, confidently awaiting Western recognition for their state despite the anger its secession provoked in Serbia and Russia's warnings of fresh Balkan unrest.

China has also expressed concern.

Sri Lanka also said the Kosovo declaration was made without the consent of the majority of the people of Serbia and was a violation of the charter of the United Nations.

(Reporting by Ranga Sirilal; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

Source: Reuters

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Lanka procuring arms from Pak to fight LTTE

Engaged in an all-out military campaign against the LTTE, Sri Lanka has said it was procuring arms from Pakistan to meet the terror threat from the Tamil Tigers.

"We are facing a problem of terrorism against a democratically-elected legitimate state. In that situation, the government needs to procure equipment to resist that terrorism. So we are making the purchases," Sri Lankan High Commissioner to India C R Jaisinghe said when asked about reports that Sri Lanka was procuring arms from Pakistan.

Noting that the Island nation had witnessed a surge in violence in recent months, he said: "The arms and equipment purchases are for our internal security and they are certainly not because we perceive a threat from any external power."

Asked whether Sri Lanka wanted military supplies from India, the envoy was not specific and broadly said, "we always look forward to Indian support. We have no doubt that we have the goodwill of India".

"I think there is no doubt in the minds of Sri Lankans that we have the goodwill (of India) in our effort to preserve the undivided nature of the country and work for a political solution that is acceptable to all," he said.

India has been refusing to supply arms to Sri Lanka but is exchanging political support for maintenance of the Island nation's territorial unity.

With India reluctant to enhance defence cooperation with it, Sri Lanka has shown signs of turning towards Pakistan with a high-level defence delegation from Islamabad holding talks with senior officials in Colombo recently.

Source: indiantimes

AI wants 'access' to Lanka to monitor alleged rights abuses

Amnesty International has asked the Sri Lankan government to make protection of human rights its top priority and facilitate the monitoring and reporting of alleged abuses by allowing the rights watchdog "access" to the country.

"The situation in Sri Lanka has deteriorated and both the government and the LTTE stand accused of serious human rights abuses. All parties should immediately stop targeting civilians and uphold their commitments to international human rights law," the group's Secretary Irene Khan said in a statement.

"Amnesty International's role is to monitor and report on human rights abuses by all parties to the conflict. The organisation has repeatedly requested that the government should facilitate this role by allowing us access to the country," she said, adding Sri Lanka must make protection of human rights the top priority.

Amnesty International also rejected a recent statement by government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella that the rights watchdog had failed "to utter a single word" against recent bomb attacks in the Island country.

In the last month alone the organisation made several statements condemning the targeting of civilians including one on 4th February 2008, Khan said.


LTTE says impossible to get Prabhakaran

Rubbishing frequent claims by Sri Lankan government that the elusive LTTE supremo Vellupillai Prabhakaran has been injured in a military raid, his key aide has said the people would soon realise the ''futility'' of army's claims of success against the rebels.

''A false propaganda saying our leader Prabhakaran is injured is being carried. Nobody can approach our leader,'' LTTE political head B Nadesan told the Tamil Daily Thinakkural in an interview on Saturday.

While the Sri Lankan security forces were claiming success in their clashes against LTTE, Nadesan said the ''people of Sri Lanka will realise the futility of such a claim in times to come''.

Nadesan accused the Sri Lankan government of trying to sideline the Norwegian mediators besides contradicting the United Nations. ''The government is not in favour of peace process,'' he said.

Lankan Air Chief Marshal Roshan Goonetilleke had said that fighter jets had dropped 20 bombs on Prabhakaran's bunker on November 26, 2007 and had claimed that the rebel leader could have been injured in the attack. The LTTE denied the claim.

The Air Chief repeated the claim on Thursday saying he was confident that Prabhakaran, 53, had been critically injured in that raid.

Over 1000 rebels and hundreds of civilians have died in escalated violence in the country since the government scrapped a tattered 2002 ceasefire last month.

Source: NDTV

Lanka says 19 Tigers killed in attack on camp

A key LTTE camp in the rebel stronghold of Wanni was targeted by Sri Lankan Air Force jets on Saturday even as troops killed 19 Tamil Tigers in the island nation’s northwest, the Defence Ministry said.

One soldier was killed in clashes between the security forces and rebels in north-western Mannar, it said.

Air Force jets “successfully bombed LTTE’s operation co-ordination centre in the south of Palampiddi in (north-western) Mannar,” the Ministry said.

The location was identified as one of the well-protected main camps of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Wanni area where their heavy guns were deployed, it said.

Army troops advanced into LTTE territory ahead of Mannar defences today killing five Tamil Tiger rebels and destroying three LTTE bunkers in Karampaikkulam area, the military said.


Saturday, 16 February 2008

Sri Lanka's controversial Minister to resign from parliament

Sri Lanka's Deputy Minister of Labour, Dr. Mervyn Silva says that he will resign from the parliament in order to secure a position in the Constitutional Council.

Speaking to media he said, that obtaining a position in the Constitutional Council where only 10 members will be allowed to chair, would give him a better opportunity to serve the people.

Asked whether his decision has anything do with a disciplinary inquiry to probe the alleged assault of the news director at the state owned TV station by the Minister and his supporters, the Minster said that he took the decision by himself and has no connection with any disciplinary inquiry as he has not involved in any breaching of discipline.

Following the assault the SLFP Central Committee appointed a three-member committee headed by Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva to probe the incident. The report of the investigation is due next week.

The Minister, who entered the parliament in 1994 from the Tissamaharama electorate in Hambantota from the Opposition United National Party and later crossed over to SLFP, said that he will continue to engage in political activities despite his resignation from the parliament.

Source: colombopost

Sri Lanka airforce 'bombs rebel base': ministry

Sri Lanka's airforce kept up air strikes on suspected Tamil Tiger rebel targets in the island's north for the third day in a row on Saturday, the defence ministry said.

It did not give details of casualties or damage but said a rebel coordination centre in Mannar on the northwest coast was hit.

The air attacks are part of an escalation of operations by the government, which pulled out of a Norwegian-brokered truce with the ethnic guerrillas last month.

"This (rebel centre) was located in the jungle and was a threat to the current army operations in Vavuniya and Mannar districts," the ministry said in a statement.

There was no immediate comment from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), but the rebels said a raid on Thursday against the guerrilla stronghold of Mullaittivu in the northeast wounded five civilians.

At least 1,248 rebels have been killed by security forces this year, according to the island's defence ministry, which has placed government losses at 70 soldiers and police.

Both sides are known to offer wildly different casualty claims that cannot be independently verified as journalists and human rights workers are barred from frontline and rebel-held areas.

Source: AFP

11 Tamil refugees arrive from Lanka

Eleven Sri Lankan Tamil refugees, including four children arrived at Kunthukal Sea shore here today in view of the fierce fighting between the Lankan Army and LTTE.

Official sources said the refugees, comprising four families hailing from Vavuniya and Thalaimannar in the Island nation hired a boat clandestinely and paid Rs 50,000 each to reach Indian shores.

The refugees disclosed that due to heavy fighting, there was severe shortage of essential commodities in the Tamil dominated areas. One kg of rice was being sold at Rs 80. ''We will work even as coolie labourers to save our children and live in peace in Tamil Nadu'', they said.

Immediately after their arrival, they were interrogated by intelligence officials. Later, they were accommodated at the Mandapam Refugee Camp.

Source: newkerala

Downgrade for Sri Lanka's credit outlook

Standard and Poor's on Friday downgraded Sri Lanka's credit outlook to "negative" and warned that the troubled tropical island was depending too much on foreign borrowing.

The ratings agency lowered Sri Lanka from "positive" and said its credit rating was still below investment grade at "B+".

The outlook revision also takes into account adverse changes in the country's debt composition, the risk evaluator said.

"The rising share of external debt, estimated at about 49 percent of the total, and, within that, more expensive and shorter-maturity commercial funds, is gradually eroding what has so far been a relatively favourable debt profile," the agency said.

The warning comes as Sri Lanka is preparing to raise 300 million dollars in debt capital this year after a similar bond for 500 million dollars in 2007 was oversubscribed three times.

The agency also warned against the government's spending programme amid soaring inflation and an escalation of the war with Tamil Tiger rebels.

"The official end of the ceasefire and the (rebels') stepped-up attacks on civilians in response to government military gains make peaceful resolution a more distant prospect," the agency said.

However, Sri Lanka's central bank hit back, accusing the risk evaluator of not taking into account the government's efforts to put together a political solution to end more than three decades of war with the Tamil Tigers.

The bank also said the downgrade was unwarranted and cast doubts over the agency's "objectivity and impartiality."

"Sri Lankan authorities view Standard and Poor's decision as being illogical, ill-advised and without rational basis or foundation," the bank said in its rebuttal.

Source: AFP

Friday, 15 February 2008

HOT ZONE : Chapter 13: Sri Lanka

Kevin Sites covered Sri Lanka as violence erupted between the government and Tamil Tiger rebels, pushing a nation with so much to lose back to the brink of all-out war. In rebel-held territory Sites interviewed Tiger fighters about their tactics and reported on the many effects of war still seen in the region.

Sites found signs of progress -- an important library has been rebuilt and land mine-related casualties are sharply declining -- but Sites also found the renewed violence had already erased tourism in some areas.

"A World of Conflict" is the documentary about the "Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone" project, in which veteran war correspondent Kevin Sites reported from every major global conflict in one year, in an effort to understand the costs of a world perpetually at war.

We are highlighting one chapter of the documentary each week in chronological order, allowing you to see the film in its entirety — exclusively online.

The documentary contains searing, never-before-seen images of combat and its lingering impact on civil society, beginning with the anarchy of Somalia in September 2005 and culminating with the explosive war between Israel and Hezbollah in summer 2006.

The documentary is included with Sites' new book, "In the Hot Zone: One Man. One Year. Twenty Wars." (The Harper Perennial paperback original is available now at and at book stores.)



Tamil Tigers Exploit Exiles Abroad to Fund Insurgency

By RĂ¼diger Falksohn and Padma Rao

After 25 years of civil war, the Sri Lankan government believes that its goal of militarily defeating Tamil rebels is finally in sight. But cutting off the rebels' financial resources is a different matter.

The Sri Lankan flag, with its green-and-orange stripes and yellow image of a lion, fluttered proudly in a brisk ocean wind. President Mahinda Rajapaksa also seemed filled with pride when he stepped up to the microphone to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Sri Lanka's independence on Monday of last week.

"Our security forces are today achieving victories against terrorism unprecedented in history," he said defiantly, referring to the civil war that has crippled the country for the last 25 years. "Terrorism is receiving an unprecedented defeat."

Despite the military parade that followed Rajapaksa's address, it was clear, judging by the many ordinary soldiers positioned behind sandbags, rolls of barbed wire and temporary bunkers in the capital Colombo, that the ceremony was only made possible by tight security precautions. Soldiers and armed security personnel kept a watchful eye on every shop and even every ice cream vendor along the city's harbor promenade.

Nevertheless, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) insurgents -- commonly known as the Tamil Tigers, who are demanding an independent Tamil state and occupy one-third of the country -- managed to stage several attacks. At least 13 people were killed when a bomb exploded at a Colombo train station. Almost at the same time as Rajapaksa's speech, a bus went up in flames 240 kilometers (149 miles) away in the country's interior, also killing 13 people. Twenty people died in another bus explosion in Dambulla, the site of a cave temple and a popular tourist destination.

The civil war has already claimed the lives of more than 70,000 Sri Lankans, and the cease-fire agreement reached six years ago has long been worth less than the paper it was printed on. After the government formally dissolved the agreement in mid-January, Rajapaksa's troops resumed their bombardment of the LTTE-occupied north and have reported many successes since then. They even claim that Velupillai Prabhakaran, the leader of the Tamil Tigers, was mortally wounded in one of the attacks.

One of the World's Most Resilient Rebel Groups

But the Tigers seem unimpressed. In fact, the self-appointed representatives of Sri Lanka's Tamil minority have repeatedly demonstrated, with their attacks and assassinations, that they remain one of the world's most resilient rebel groups. The LTTE is the only guerilla organization in the world with its own rudimentary air force, as it demonstrated a year ago in a surprise attack on the headquarters of the Sri Lankan Air Force near the airport in Colombo. Although the Tigers' aircraft and bomb technology were substantially outdated, the air attack confirmed what had been just a rumor until then: That the LTTE is more than just a collection of jungle fighters, including many child soldiers, and naval vessels.

The Tigers are said to have the second-highest budget of all separatists, outdone only by Colombia's FARC guerillas, with their sizable cocaine revenues. The British military publication Jane's Intelligence Review and the humanitarian group Human Rights Watch recently published details of the group's sources of funding.

According to the report, the Tigers raise up to $300 million (204 million euros) a year, or between 80 and 90 percent of their total budget, abroad. Overseas Tamils are expected to donate funds, making private households and businesspeople the group's principal source of funding. Human Rights Watch describes the Tamils' fundraising method as "extortion." Indeed, poor or financially strapped Tamil families living in London, for instance, are asked to pay a monthly contribution of 40 British pounds (54 euros) apiece, while the Tamils who operate a Hindu temple in Canada are expected to come up with the equivalent of 700,000 euros ($1.03 million) -- as a "contribution to the final war."

With one in four Tamils living abroad, the number of potential donors runs upwards of 800,000. The largest diaspora is concentrated in Canada (about 250,000 people), followed by India (150,000), Great Britain (110,000), Germany (50,000), Switzerland, France and Australia (30,000 each). LTTE allegedly demands that Tamil expatriates contribute 20 percent of their earnings to the Tigers' cause, and Tamil cultural organizations are believed to employ money collectors who then funnel the revenues through circuitous routes to "Eelam," as the Tigers' realm is known.

Converting Dollars into Weapons

The collected dollars are often converted into weapons before reaching Sri Lanka. The weapons are shipped to Jaffna, the Tamil stronghold, primarily from southern India. Speedboats take only 45 minutes to cross the 35-kilometer (22-mile) Palk Strait between India and Sri Lanka. They often arrive loaded with overstock from a global weapons bazaar: Ukrainian explosives, Bulgarian SA-14 short-range missiles, bazookas from Cyprus, grenade launchers from Croatia and guns from Cambodia, Thailand and Burma.

To pay for all of this, the Tigers have apparently even turned to the illicit use of credit cards. In Norway, 16 LTTE supporters were put behind bars for credit card fraud last May. Authorities in Singapore and Thailand have raided criminal gangs outfitted with blank credit cards and reading devices designed to crack secret codes at ATMs.

The Tigers are organized centrally and hierarchically. According to Jane's, the organization's finances are handled by the Aiyanna Group, which is run by LTTE intelligence chief Potta Amman, and the Office of Overseas Purchases, headed by senior LTTE official Kumaran Pathmanathan (hence the nickname KP Department). Pathmanathan is believed to be in charge of securing financial contributions and allegedly works hand-in-hand with groups like the World Tamil Coordinating Committee (WTCC) in the borough of Queens in New York.

The WTCC, for its part, denies any involvement with LTTE, which is listed as a terrorist organization in North America and in the European Union.

Many Tamils who fled Sri Lanka in the early 1980s in the wake of pogroms committed by the Singhalese majority, or who have traumatic memories of the violent acts the government has committed in fighting the Tigers, support the LTTE voluntarily. They see the organization as the defender of a just cause.

Those who don't see it this way receive house visits from money collectors whose repertoire ranges from subtle encouragement to blatant extortion. Anyone who consistently refuses to pay up runs the risk of anything from harassing phone calls to a ransacked apartment, can run into problems when traveling home to Sri Lanka and endangers family members. According to a Tamil who has been at the receiving end of Tiger harassment, "they simply say: we'll show you. We all know that this can be a matter of life and death."


India to help Sri Lanka build power plant

B. Muralidhar Reddy

COLOMBO: Ending the nearly 14-month stalemate, India and Sri Lanka on Wednesday agreed on the exact location in Trincomalee in the east for setting up a 500-MW coal-based thermal plantand signed an understanding for commissioning the project by 2012. The agreement, with revised ‘milestones’ for completion of the project, was signed here by representatives of National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) in the presence of Sri Lanka Minister for Power John Seneviratne and visiting Indian Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh.

Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Alok Prasad, who was present on the occasion told journalists later that the project would be located at Veloore in north of Trincomalee.
$500m investment

The project, involving an investment of $500 million, would be implemented through a 50:50 joint venture company to be formed by NTPC and the CEB, and would be funded with a debt equity ratio of 70:30.

Addressing a news conference here Mr. Ramesh said that in the course of his discussion with his counterpart in Sri Lanka it was also decided to commission a $3 million feasibility study on interlinking of the Sri Lanka Electricity Board (SLEB) with the Southern Regional Electricity Grid (SREG).


Sethu project: Beware of LTTE, says Lankan Navy chief

Sri Lankan Navy chief Vice Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda on Thursday sought international cooperation to deal with the threat posed by the LTTE and claimed that patrolling would have to be increased if India’s Sethusamundram shipping channel project is implemented.

Wasantha Karannagoda, who is in New Delhi to take part in Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, claimed that the LTTE has been a threat for Sri Lanka but if its activities were not checked the group will pose problems for other countries.

He said the Sri Lankan Navy has been successful in countering the LTTE. Welcoming the Indian Navy’s initiative to bring together sea forces of the Indian Ocean region, he said such a cooperation will help in forming a joint strategy to deal with threats posed by terrorists.

Karannagoda steered clear from the controversy over the Sethusamundram project but said that the Indian Government would have factored the security aspect while conceiving the shipping lane.

On its party, Sri Lanka will increase patrol on its side of the channel, he added. The Sri Lankan official said the bilateral cooperation between the maritime security agencies of the two countries was in place.

The two sides hold regular discussions to clear any misunderstanding. There are coordinated patrols to secure the area.


Tamil Tigers cannot be crushed says MP

By M.R. Narayan Swamy

Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger guerrillas can never be vanquished militarily, a Tamil MP has said, calling for an Indian role to bring peace to the island nation.

M.K. Shivaji Lingam of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) also said that the escalating violence in the war-hit country was only adding to the unending human misery, principally among the Tamil community.

"It is impossible to crush or destroy the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) militarily," Shivaji Lingam told IANS, a day after he took part in a demonstration urging India to stop its military backing to Sri Lanka.

The LTTE campaign for a Tamil homeland, he said, "has become a people's struggle. Even ordinary villagers are now armed. They volunteer for duty round the clock to check the military's deep penetration units in LTTE areas."

Shivaji Lingam, a member of the pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance (TNA), the biggest Tamil grouping in the Sri Lankan parliament, said he expected the war now raging in the country to continue.

"The LTTE will never give up," he said. "Even if the military takes over LTTE areas, the Tigers will fight on. But it won't be easy for the government to do that anyway.

"The government had wanted to crush the LTTE about 10 years ago. What could not be achieved 10 years ago cannot be achieved today. Today, the LTTE is more powerful militarily," he added.

Shivaji Lingam, however, admitted that the Tigers had suffered serious reverses in the country's east, where the guerrillas have been driven out of their strongholds, and that Colombo was strong too - militarily.

Shivaji Lingam, who comes from the same region in Jaffna that is home to LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran, was once opposed to the Tigers. Over the years, he, like many others in Sri Lanka, has come to see the Tigers as the true representative of the Tamil minority.

Shivaji Lingam said the Tamils had no faith in the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The Tamils, he said, could not understand why India was silent over the deteriorating situation in Sri Lanka.

"India should get involved and bring about a political solution," he argued. "If it cannot do that, it should recognise the Tamil liberation struggle."


Thursday, 14 February 2008

25 rebels killed in Sri Lanka clashes

Fighting between government troops and Tamil rebels continued Thursday in northern Sri Lanka, with at least 25 insurgents killed, military officials said.

Ten of the rebels were killed in two separate engagements in Mannar, some 320 km north of the capital Wednesday, when troops repulsed two rebel attacks in the area, while two government soldiers were wounded, officials said.

Eight more rebels were killed in Vavuniya, 240 km north of the capital, in two confrontations Wednesday. Two anti-tank mines were recovered in the area.

Seven more rebels were reported killed in Welioya, 320 km northeast of the capital Wednesday.

Fighting between government troops and rebels has intensified over the past few weeks as security forces have launched operations from several fronts to recapture parts of the north, currently held by the rebels.

The military and the government have vowed to crush the rebels within a year and recapture the rebel held areas.

The government has also been forced to intensify security in the capital and northern province, as rebels have carried out attacks on civilian targets, including three buses and a railway station, killing more than 80 civilians since January.

The military has been claiming that the rebels have been suffering heavy casualties in the north, but there has been no independent confirmation of the figures given by the military. No civilians have access to these areas of fighting