Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse today pledged to persist with his military campaign to defeat the rebel Tamil Tiger, even as the latter stepped up bombings, killing dozens of civilians in recent days.
Speaking at a ceremony to mark the island’s 60th anniversary of independence from Britain, President Rajapakse said his government, which is under fire from the international community for rights abuses in the wake of anti-rebel operations, was committed to protecting human rights.
Government forces were “achieving victories against terrorism unprecedented in history. Terrorism is receiving an unprecedented defeat,” he said, referring to the onslaught against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the north and the east of the island in the last two years.
Hours after the function, the rebels exploded two powerful bombs. One targeted a passenger bus in Welioya, northeastern Sri Lanka, killing 12 and injuring 17. The other attack was in Buttala, southern Sri Lanka, against an army vehicle in which one soldier died and three others were wounded.
In his speech the Sri Lankan president linked his government’s fight against the Tamil Tigers with the fight against global “terrorism”: “The defeat of the most ruthless terrorists of the world in Sri Lanka is also a victory of the developed world, which, too, is a victim of terrorism… We are also fully committed to carry on this battle while safeguarding human rights.”
Since 2 January, when the government announced it was pulling out of a 2002 truce agreement with the LTTE, some 139 civilians have died in bomb explosions on buses and in public places. According to the Defence Ministry, in the past month, 908 Tamil Tigers have been killed in air raids and ground battles while 36 government soldiers have lost their lives in fighting in the rebel-held Wanni region in the north.
The 60th anniversary is being marked as government troops engage in fierce combat with the LTTE, which controls large areas of the north, and as the Tamil Tigers mount attacks on civilian targets in the capital and in southern parts of the island.
Military parade, bombings
The government paraded its military power at the Galle Face seafront promenade, one of the capital’s most scenic and historic areas, rolling out armoured tanks, multi-barrel rocket launchers and fighter aircraft used in almost daily attacks in the north.
On 3 February the Tigers struck in the heart of Colombo with a female suicide bomber killing 11 passengers and wounding over 100 at the main railway station in downtown Fort, despite heavy security checks ahead of the Independence Day celebrations. Hours earlier, six people were wounded in a hand grenade attack at a zoo in the city suburb of Dehiwala.
The previous day a parcel bomb on a crowded bus in the north-central town of Dambulla killed 20 people and wounded 68. The attacks were condemned by the USA which said they appeared to be aimed at fostering "an atmosphere of fear prior to Sri Lanka's Independence Day celebrations".
Impact on civilians
Humanitarian agencies have already warned that the government’s withdrawal from the ceasefire would not only impact civilians but also impede aid delivery and jeopardise the safety of humanitarian workers.
According to an Interagency Standing Committee (IASC) situation report for the week ending 31 January, some 230,000 people are still displaced by the hostilities in the northern districts. They would be at risk if a surge in fighting restricted movement and cut off supply lines, aid agencies have said.
International relations, aid
President Rajapakse also used the 4 February celebrations to highlight a growing divide between his government and the international community. He said his government did not have “shallow and cosmetic associations with Western countries”.
Arguing that the international community still had confidence in the government, he said they had established “new relations with neighbouring states, Arab states, and Buddhist states. Our neighbouring states trust us. Our problems and issues are also problems and issues of our neighbouring states.”
Several foreign governments condemned Rajapakse’s withdrawal from the Norwegian-brokered truce and have urged a resumption of political negotiations with the LTTE. Sri Lanka has, however, ruled out talks with the rebels till the northern territories controlled by the LTTE have been won back.
Both the UK and the USA have already announced they are cutting back on aid while Japan, Sri Lanka’s largest foreign aid donor, sounded a warning last week that it could review its assistance policy to the island unless there was a reduction in violence.
Monday, 4 February 2008
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse today pledged to persist with his military campaign to defeat the rebel Tamil Tiger, even as the latter stepped up bombings, killing dozens of civilians in recent days.
Military reports indicate that 39 terrorists were killed during the offensives undertaken by Sri Lanka army against LTTE terrorists in the Island's Northern Province yesterday (February 3). Also, one soldier was killed and two others suffered injuries during the clashes, the reports further revealed.
In the Jaffna theatre of battle, troops attacked LTTE bunkers and engaged artillery and heavy mortar fire at the LTTE defences in the Muhamalai and Kilaly areas during the day time yesterday. According to the ground sources 05 terrorists were killed in these incidents. Also, one soldier suffered injuries during the terrorists' retaliatory fire and was admitted to the Palaly base hospital.
Separately, snipers deployed in the Kilaly area claimed that one terrorist was killed around 11.50, last forenoon.
In the Wanni theatre of battle, troops conducted limited offensives in the Vavuniya, Mannar and Welioya battlefronts giving heavy beating to the terrorists.
On the Vavuniya front, troops engaged the terrorists in the Periyapantrichchurichchan, Koilmoddai, and Kallikulam areas during the course of the day. Ground troops confirmed that 24 terrorists were killed in these battles. Also, one soldier was killed and another suffered injuries during the confrontation that took place at Periyapantrichchurichchan.
On the Mannar theatre of battle, troops attacked terror positions in the Madhu area in two separate incidents killing 7 terrorists during the day.
Meanwhile on the Welioya front, terrorists' radio transmissions revealed that 2 terrorists were killed and another injured in a confrontation that took place in the area west of Janakapura on the same day evening.
According to the reports received form all the battlefronts in the Jaffna and Wanni, from the 31st of January to 3rd February, 132 terrorists were killed so far and over 50 others suffered injuries during the limited offensives conducted by the security forces.
Limited operations are continuing.
A medical assistant carries a survivor of the bus attack in a hospital in Anuradhapura, about 210 kilometers (130 miles) north east of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Monday, Feb. 4, 2008. A roadside bomb blast tore through a civilian bus in the Welioya region, about 240 kilometers (150 miles) northeast of Colombo, military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said. The attack killed 12 people and injured 17 others, he said, blaming the rebels.
Source:(AP Photo/Sanath Priyantha)
By Samanthi Dissanayake
Sri Lanka has marked the 60th anniversary of independence by a bombastic display of military hardware amid high security in the capital, Colombo.
The parade comes one day after a suicide attack killed 11 in Colombo's main railway station.
Security has tightened in the capital in recent months. Security checks have made rush hour traffic inch along even more slowly.
It is at such times that people most dread an attack by the Tamil Tigers.
"The fear has really got into people's minds," student Janani Wijetunge told the BBC News website.
"You don't know when the next bomb is going to go. We still live in it. We go to school, to work, but everyone who leaves home in the morning is never totally sure if they will come back home."
"We are fearing the big one," one resident said. "I can sense it is on the way, the tension is building up."
Colombo is no stranger to the brutality of Sri Lanka's intractable civil war. In 1996 at least 50 people were killed in a suicide attack in the heart of Colombo's financial district and in 2001 an assault on the international airport destroyed half of the Sri Lankan Airlines fleet.
But within a year the Sri Lankan government and Tamil Tiger rebels had signed a ceasefire.
Amid the flurry of conciliatory gestures which followed the truce, Colombo experienced a subtle but significant transformation.
As the guns fell silent, the army checkpoints were deserted and a spirit of enterprise took hold of the city. Cafes, bars and restaurants opened in this period. Colombo became more attractive to foreign investors. The new buoyancy wasn't lost on its residents.
"Things were looking good. People could move around more freely and there was a lot of optimism and investment," observed Rukman a Colombo resident.
"It's a bit different now," he continued. "There are far fewer people out and about in the evenings. People feel much more scared."
It would be easy to paint too rosy a picture of the ceasefire years. It was during this time that Sri Lanka's foreign minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar, was assassinated at his Colombo residence, a killing widely blamed on the Tiger rebels.
Indeed after the hardline government of Mahinda Rajapaksa took power in late 2005 the ceasefire started to breakdown, even though both the government and rebels claimed to be respecting it.
The government finally withdrew from the truce in January 2008.
But this was not before a series of audacious attacks by the rebels inside Colombo such as the aerial raids in April 2007 when the Tigers launched their rudimentary air force. The government has claimed it can win the war and President Rajapaksa on Monday reminded people that the government had driven the LTTE out of their strongholds in Sri Lanka's Eastern Province.
The return to violence has created a climate of fear and suspicion which has taken its toll on inter-ethnic relations.
"Colombo may be multicultural but it is still divided on ethnic lines," said Dr SI Keethaponcalan, a political scientist at Colombo University.
"On the surface, you see the ethnic communities getting on very well. But underneath you have a sense of suspicion and animosity. They are living in one city but mentally and psychologically they are definitely divided"
Wealthy Tamils and Sinhalese tend to have a lot in common and get on very well on the surface said Dr Keethaponcalan. But ethnic nationalism does prevail, he argues.
Late night army search operations have also created a climate of fear among Tamils in the city.
""Colombo is really not friendly," said one Tamil clerk from the east who lives in Colombo. "I am always scared to go out. People know we are Tamil because of my name and when that happens we get asked so many questions. I cannot blame them because of the security situation but it is worrying and humiliating."
Some, who have the option, have said they are considering leaving the country.
The high cost of living and the increasingly precarious economic climate may be a deciding factor.
The current insecurity of the city is a deterrent to foreign investment and the property market is slowing down.
"Everything happens in Colombo. Fifty per cent of Sri Lanka's GDP comes from the western province. But if you look at local businesses, they are quite resilient. Many are used to handling the economic cost of a conflict," said Asantha Sirimanne, editor of Lanka Business Online.
Nevertheless other factors, such as high interest rates, inflation and increasing rates of bank defaults could tip the balance.
"We have had two tight years in a row. In 2001 there was an economic crisis - the Tigers hit the airport and things collapsed. Businesses are slowly grinding to a halt, but they haven't ground to a halt yet," said Mr Sirimanne.
Reports of the army clearing small businesses off the pavements for security reason do little to shore up confidence.
"If the Tigers hit the port, if there is just a little push, that could be it," predicts Mr Sirimanne. "The conditions are ripe and it doesn't look good."
Source: BBC NEWS
by Amal Jayasinghe
COLOMBO (AFP) - At least 14 people were killed in two roadside bombings in Sri Lanka, as the island's president marked independence day by insisting he was winning the war against Tamil Tiger rebels.
A bomb in the northeast of the ethnically-divided island killed 13 bus passengers and wounded 16 others, including children, the military said, adding that among the dead were two women and two off-duty soldiers.
A similar blast in the south against a military vehicle killed one soldier. Three other soldiers escaped with injuries.
The attacks, both blamed on the Tamil Tigers, came hours after an annual military parade at Colombo's seaside Galle Face promenade to mark Sri Lanka's 60th anniversary of independence from Britain.
In an address to the nation, President Mahinda Rajapakse said the "challenge bestowed upon us by history is the defeat of terrorism," and said government forces had cornered the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the north.
"We faced this challenge squarely without avoiding it. Our security forces are today achieving victories against terrorism unprecedented in history," he said.
"Terrorism is receiving an unprecedented defeat," said Rajapakse, whose government last month pulled out of a tattered truce with the rebels, who are fighting for an independent ethnic homeland in the Sinhalese-majority island.
According to the defence ministry, the rebels have lost at least 908 fighters since the beginning of the year, compared to just 37 government soldiers killed.
Scores of civilians have also died during the same period, according to both sides.
Monday's celebrations went ahead despite threats from the LTTE, and following two weekend bomb attacks that killed 34 civilians and wounded nearly 200 others.
Two more blasts just outside the capital earlier Monday did not cause any casualties, but an electricity transformer was destroyed in one of the attacks, police said.
The government ordered all schools in the capital to shut for a week as students mourned seven colleagues who perished in a weekend bomb attack.
Ringed by tight security, Rajapakse also brushed off threats of foreign aid cuts due to the worsening ethnic conflict and human rights situation.
The president said Sri Lanka had "established new relations with our neighbouring states, Arab states and Buddhist states."
"Our neighbouring states trust us. Our problems and issues are also problems and issues of our neighbouring states," he said.
His remarks followed a thinly veiled warning from Japan, the island's main financial backer, that it may review its aid policy unless there is a decline in the level of violence.
The United States and Britain, Sri Lanka's former colonial ruler, last year announced aid cuts to the island citing human rights violations and high defence spending by the government.
Washington has also stopped selling lethal military hardware to Colombo.
"We have been able to obtain and use aid that is beneficial to the development of the country," the president said at the military parade, which featured multi-barrel rocket launchers, and Israeli-built Kfir and Russian MiG-27 war planes.
To mark independence day, the island's prisons chief said around 2,280 inmates serving time for minor offences had received amnesties.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — A roadside bomb attack blamed on Tamil Tiger rebels tore through a civilian bus in northeastern Sri Lanka on Monday, killing 12 people and injuring 17, the military said.
The attack took place in the region of Welioya at about 3:40 p.m, military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said.
"The LTTE activated a roadside bomb targeting innocent civilians," Nanayakkara said, using the acronym for the rebel group's formal name, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
Ven. Maha Sangha, Members of the Clergy of other religions, Hon. Prime Minister , Hon. Speaker,
Hon. Chief Justice and Members of Judiciary, Hon. Ministers and Members of Parliament,
Governors, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Secretary to the President and all Officers of State,
The Chief of Defence Staff and Commanders of the Armed Forces and the Inspector General of Police,
Mothers, Fathers and Dear Children,
My friends who join me in celebrating the 60th anniversary of Independence.
On this historic day we witness the proud commemoration of the 60th anniversary of freedom of a great nation. I say with gratitude that we achieved this dignity and greatness as the Sri Lankan nation, not only through the sacrifices of today's heroes, but also due to the immense sacrifices of our forefathers throughout history. Let us make this the opportunity to first bow our heads in salutation to all those who sacrificed their blood and sweat for the country.
I believe freedom is something that has to be made meaningful day by day. We have now arrived at an era where we have decisively dedicated ourselves to enrich the substance of freedom.
As I see it, among important measures that should be taken to enrich freedom are the defeat of terrorism, development of the country, and consolidating trust among all peoples.
Just as every drop of water released from the Mavil Aru anicut since its liberation, every plant we grow and nurture in our villages under the theme "Let us grow to build the country" is a gigantic step to nurture the country's independence and freedom.
During the last two years we have as a nation brought forth a very important and decisive factor to enrich the substance of freedom. It is an indicator that has so far never been used to measure a country's well-being or development. Just as the oil reserves that would be harnessed in the future from the sea off Mannar, and the electricity that would be generated from the Norochcholai and Upper Kotmale power projects, this indicator will have great import for Sri Lanka in the future.
This is none other than the patriotism, and love for the country that has emerged among our people today.
Our challenge today is to be true to the nation and maintain this patriotic fervor of our people, without letting it to be subjugated by political party differences, and political interests.
The competition among us should not be among the parties to which we give leadership. Our struggle should not be between the Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim communities. Our disagreements should not be among Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. Friends, our struggle should be between the past and the future; between what is wrong, and what is correct; between hate and Maitriya (Loving Kindness).
Friends, the Sri Lankan nation had to live with fearsome experiences of the terrible tragedy and cancer of terrorism for three of the six decades since independence. Infinite are the loss of lives, property and opportunities due to it. However, I am convinced that we can restore the lost opportunities for progress instead of lamenting and sighing, heaping blame on politicians and the motherland, while looking at and envying the progress made by other countries. I consider such behaviour as both treachery and a betrayal of the country.
Is there any meaning in comparing pre-independence Singapore, or the previous condition of any other country with our present status? We must as a nation stop regurgitating outdated thinking that is harmful to the well being of the nation.
The challenge bestowed to us by history is the defeat of terrorism and the development of the country. You are aware of how most governments that accepted this challenge, later handed it over to its successor, as a heavy and unbearable burden.
Friends, during the last two years, however, we faced this challenge squarely without avoiding it. Our security forces are today achieving victories against terrorism unprecedented in history. Terrorism is receiving an unprecedented defeat.
In less than two years we have liberated the large Eastern Province that was under the clutches of the terrorists and confined them to two districts, only. It will not be wrong to say they are confined to one-and-a-half districts. But Friends, this cannot be a victory of the southern people alone.
When this becomes a victory of the people in the south, we must make it an even greater victory for people in the north. When the people of the south are relieved by the defeat of terrorism, the people of the north have cause for even greater relief.
We are already taking steps to enable the people in the Eastern Province liberated from terrorism, to enjoy their democratic rights. We are expeditiously holding elections that will ensure to people hitherto subdued in silence, the exercise of their democratic right to elect one's own representatives.
We are also rapidly developing these areas that were subject to the extortion and ransom demands of terrorists.
You know that the rate of development of the Eastern Province is faster than the rate of fall of terrorist bastions today. The provision of electricity, water, housing, schools and roads is being accelerated. We want the people of the North and East to be victorious.
It is the same with the political solution.
You know that we did not win independence for the benefit of one community alone. The Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Burghers, Malays and all participated in the freedom struggle. None of us wanted freedom for a divided country. We all wanted freedom for a single country.
From the time of Handy Perinpanayagam, leader of the Jaffna Youth League who first called for full independence for Sri Lanka, to the time of Dr. T. B. Jayah, and Ponnambalam Ramanathan, whose statue stands at the Presidential Secretariat premises today; all our people were in the freedom struggle. The problem today is that there is no space for the emergence of such heroes. If there were such heroes who fought for the independence of a single country, they would have fallen victim to LTTE guns. Therefore, we will liberate the North from the clutches of terrorism and also provide a political solution and bring political freedom to the people there.
It is only if we act in this manner that we will we once again see the emergence of leaders from the North and the East like those heroes who participated in the freedom struggle. This commitment of ours is to go forward as a single, unitary state.
Friends, our solution must be based on what could be implemented in this country. We cannot offer solutions that are experiments. We cannot experiment with solutions when so much blood has been shed and tens of thousands of lives have been lost. That is why we selected a solution which can be implemented and about which we have experience. This practical solution is to bring the provincial administration closer to the people within the framework of our Constitution.
Friends, we also have a fine opportunity in this instance, to provide an example to the world.
As a policy we do not have cosmetic and shallow associations with the western countries. Our relations with them are true and real.
We have established new relations with our neighboring states, Arab states, and Buddhist states. Our neighboring states trust us. Our problems and issues are also problems and issues of our neighboring states.
The confidence placed in us by the international community has not diminished one iota.
Whatever is said by those people who make a show of their international connections, there has been no reduction whatever in the aid received by us. We have been able to obtain and use aid that is beneficial to the development of the country. The civilized world today, accepts that Sri Lanka is putting one full- stop to world terrorism.
The defeat of the most ruthless terrorists of the world in Sri Lanka is also a victory of the developed world, which too is a victim of terrorism. We are also fully committed to carry on this battle while safeguarding Human Rights. This is the reality.
Friends, you know that every government had to forget their election pledges even before the expiry of one year in office.
This is because either those policies did not suit the reality of the country, or else they were not bold enough to implement them, however great the support they received from the people. Or else, there was no commitment.
You know that we have implemented to the letter the policies contained in the election manifesto approved by the people at the last Presidential Election. All believed that the stopping of alcohol and drug abuse, the non-issuance of new liquor bar licenses and the prohibition of smoking in public places would be controversial and cannot be implemented. It was also believed by many that it was a law of world economics that the economy could not be maintained without divesting ownership of state enterprises. There was also the belief that identifying as terrorists, those who kill the Sinhala people by the thousands, would lead to dangerous consequences. In short, two years ago, no one believed that terrorists could be defeated. But, during the last two years we made it a reality in our motherland.
We have not abandoned the Mahinda Chinthana that was endorsed by the people. We shall not abandon it. Therefore, we say that we shall continue to defend the majority opinion of the people of this country.
During the last two years, we were able to solve many chronic issues that were postponed as being irresolvable. We need not stress that the resolution of these issues was related to the country's independence. Strengthening health, education and the national economy shows the way forward to a better future and an independent country.
Today, the whole country knows that the village exists and is awakening. Factories once closed, such as Thulhiriya have been re-opened. CTB buses are back on the roads with the Lion logo. The CWE and the cooperative movement are being revived. Good roads as in the western countries have now being laid even to remote villages, under "Maga Neguma". Thousands of new houses have been built in the plantations. Potable water projects could be seen in most villages. For the first time since colonial times, we have now begun the construction of an international airport and harbour. Fly-overs and hundreds of bridges and roads are being built. All these bridges are built by Sri Lankan engineers. Earlier, foreign experts were given contracts to oversee construction of our dams; in a country that was famous for its irrigation and reservoir construction. Now, our own Sri Lankan engineers are constructing huge reservoirs at Moragahakanda, Deduru Oya, and Weheragala.
We are building a country where the farmer could smile as he reaps the harvest from his cinnamon, betel, maize and rice cultivations. Venerable Sirs, when our people construct their own roads and reservoirs, when they receive a good price for their crops, when they consume their own food, they begin to feel that they are not strangers in one's own land.
We have given our nation every opportunity to link with the technologically developed world. We have been able to raise computer literacy in the country to 25% without trumpeting about it, in a country that did not attach much importance to it. During the last two years we have recorded the highest economic growth of 7 per cent after 30 years.
What is essential is to carry these achievements forward. We shall do so as a country that is not subjugated or frightened and open to exploitation or extortion. We shall do safeguarding our national identity and independence. Whatever difficulties we encounter we shall not betray our motherland.
We know that our people, as those in other countries, face the burdens of a high cost of living due to world food shortages and the rise in oil prices.
But as the Head of State who has ensured a difficult victory in our motherland, I say that these difficulties are not permanent. I say with responsibility that I will not allow them to be difficulties even in the long-term. It must be said that short-term difficulties lead to long term benefits and a life free of oppression.
Let us understand the hardships we face due to our efforts to raise our country to a significant place in the world. We are ready to create a country that will utilize to the maximum our ocean resources that are several times the size of the land mass of our motherland.
I am ready to create a society that will utilize to the maximum the resources of our country.
The task before us is to make maximum use of our natural resources in our skies, our land, our beaches and the sea. We have the huge task of making every inch of land productive and extract from nature all resources needed for a free country. I am convinced that our Sri Lankan nation has the strength to achieve this. Accordingly, our resolve will take us to the creation of a truly free and independent nation in our motherland.
I wish you all a happy and successful future.
May you be blessed by the Triple Gem!
Seventeen Tamil civilians, majority of them workers at business establishments and staying in lodges, were taken into custody in a cordon and search operation conducted by the Sri Lanka government security forces at Nugegoda, a suburb in Colombo, from Sunday evening till early morning Monday, sources said.
Nearly three hundred houses were searched, and more than eight thousand persons were interrogated during the search operation.
Work places, shops and lodges were also searched. The operation was carried out following the discovery of explosives from a telephone booth located in Nugegoda, police sources said.
Meanwhile, the police arrested three persons who are residents of Batticaloa and Kaathankudy in eastern province in connection with the bomb blast that took place at Dehiwela zoo on Sunday morning.
The suspects are being detained in the Dehiwala police station and being interrogated by the Terrorist Intelligence Division (TID), sources said.
By Paul Tighe
Feb. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Sri Lanka, marking the 60th anniversary of independence from Britain, said Tamil rebels are fighting their last battle and two bombings at the weekend that killed more than 30 civilians demonstrate their desperation.
Security forces ``have reached the last phase in eliminating terrorism from our nation,'' the Media Center for National Security said in a statement today. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam group ``is fighting its last battle'' after being driven from the eastern region.
The government blamed the LTTE for a blast on a bus that killed 20 people two days ago and an attack by a female suicide bomber on a train in the capital, Colombo, in which 11 people died yesterday. The LTTE hasn't commented on the attacks.
The Tamil Tigers now hold bases only in Sri Lanka's north after losing control of the Eastern Province in July. The LTTE has been fighting for 25 years for a separate homeland in the South Asian island nation, a conflict that has killed more than 70,000 people.
Terrorism is facing an ``unprecedented defeat'' in Sri Lanka, President Mahinda Rajapaksa said in an Independence Day speech today.
``The Sri Lankan nation had to live with fearsome experiences of the terrible tragedy and cancer of terrorism for three of the six decades since independence,'' Rajapaksa said, according to an e-mailed statement.
The bus blast took place at Dambulla in north-central Sri Lanka and the suicide bomber blew herself up in Colombo's Fort Railway station yesterday, the Defense Ministry said.
Security forces arrested 17 Tamil civilians in a search operation in Colombo after the train attack, TamilNet reported on its Web site, citing unidentified police officials. As many as 300 houses were searched, it said
Sri Lanka's air force last week attacked an LTTE jungle base in the northeast used to train suicide bombers. The government said a bomber killed three people in the city of Jaffna on Jan. 31.
A female suicide bomber blew herself up, killing one person, in an attack inside the offices of Douglas Devananda, the minister for social services, in Colombo, on Nov. 28. A parcel bomb exploded the same day in the city's Nugegoda district, killing 18 people.
Sri Lanka's government says it wants to reach a political settlement on the issue of Tamil separatism while eradicating terrorism in the north.
It says it won't consider any peace settlement that would divide the country of 20 million people. Tamils make up 11.9 percent of the population and Sinhalese almost 74 percent, according to a 2001 census.
An all-party forum has proposed creating an interim council in the Northern Province under a power-sharing agreement based on a 1987 constitutional amendment creating provincial councils.
``We selected a solution which can be implemented and about which we have experience,'' Rajapaksa said in his address today. ``This practical solution is to bring the provincial administration closer to the people within the framework of our constitution.''
The LTTE, designated a terrorist organization by the U.S., the European Union and India, rejected the amendment in 1988, saying it left too much power with the national Parliament.
The government is trying to find a durable solution to the ethnic problem through democratic means, the Media Center said in its statement today.
``Our independence struggle was not waged for one community, one group or one party alone,'' it said. ``That struggle was carried out collectively by all communities together, including the Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Burgher and Malay peoples.''
By Simon Gardner
COLOMBO (Reuters) - A caller claiming to be from a group Sri Lanka's military says is a wing of the Tamil Tigers on Monday warned of bomb attacks on Independence Day celebrations due to take place in the capital Colombo within hours.
Sri Lanka's military said the group, Ellalan Forces, was a codename sometimes used by Tamil Tiger rebels behind attacks in the capital like one on Sunday when 11 people were killed in a railway station bombing.
The caller was unknown to Reuters and hung up when asked if he was linked to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The Tigers were not immediately reachable for comment.
Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said the armed forces were expecting the rebels to try and mount attacks.
"There have been recoveries of suicide jackets and an LTTE cadre (fighter) last week. They are trying to disrupt the independence celebrations," he said. "We are expecting some kind of sabotage activity from the Tigers.
"Ellalan forces ... are those operating in Colombo," he added. "It sounds genuine. It is the Tigers."
A man claiming to be from the group called Reuters in January 1996 one minute before suspected Tigers rammed a truck packed with explosives into the Central Bank in Colombo, killing up to 100 people and wounding 1,400.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa is due to oversee an exhibition of military might in the capital on Monday morning, when tanks and thousands of troops will parade in the city, fighter jets will fly overhead and attack boats sail by to mark the 60th anniversary of independence from colonial ruler Britain.
The military is already on high alert after a series of bombings blamed on the Tigers in recent weeks, including Sunday's suicide bombing at the island's main train station in the capital which killed 11 and wounded 92.
"Please, be careful. There are going to be bombs in Colombo in some places," the anonymous caller told Reuters, saying he represented 'Ellalan Forces' -- a little known group the military identified as a codename for Tiger fighters operating in the capital.
"In some places we have fixed bombs to target Independence Day celebrations."
The Sri Lankan cricket team’s security in Australia has been heightened after some unruly fans in Hobart attacked spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan with an egg.
“The Australian authorities have apologised for the incident and the Sri Lankan team’s security has been beefed up,” Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) secretary K. Mathivanan said.
Showing no let-up in their hostility towards Muralitharan, a group of fans threw an egg on his face in Hobart on Friday night.
The incident marked a new low in Aussie fans’ turbulent relations with Muralitharan.
Mathivanan said Cricket Australia will also keep a close watch on crowd behaviour during the ongoing tri-series in which Sri Lanka is one of the teams along with Australia and India. “Australian authorities will keep an eye on the hotel’s security. They have already announced that any misbehaving fan would be thrown out of the ground,” Mathivanan said.
Muralitharan has had a history of hostility with the Australian spectators, who have jeered him on previous tours, forcing him to stop going Down Under for some time.
The off-spinner was no-balled by Aussie umpires and the bowler had to undergo laboratory tests to prove the legality of his bowling action.
Source: The Hindu
The US Sunday "strongly" condemned the bomb blasts in Sri Lanka and blamed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for the attacks just ahead of the country's independence day Monday.
"The United States strongly condemns the terrorist bombing on Feb 3 at Fort railway station and Dehiwela Zoo in Colombo, and on Feb 2 in a bus in Dambulla," a release from the US embassy here said.
The attacks bore "all the hallmarks of the LTTE, clearly targeting innocent civilians to foster an atmosphere of fear prior to Sri Lanka's independence day celebrations", the release said.
The US appealed to all parties in the Sri Lankan conflict to avoid killing or injuring civilians. It reiterated Washington's stand that there could only be a political solution to the prolonged conflict.
Sri Lanka Sunday said that buses coming from the troubled north would be stopped at the border between the Tamil-dominated region and the Sinhalese-speaking south, following the blast at Colombo's main railway station that killed 11 people and injured over 100.
Passengers and goods heading for towns in the south would be stopped at Medawachchiya on the border and would be transferred into separate buses after due checking for bombs.
Earlier, the government had stopped the Vavuniya-Colombo 'Yal Devi' express train.
Eleven people, including women and children, were killed and 103 injured Sunday afternoon when a female suicide bomber detonated herself at the Fort railway station here.
The suicide bomber had arrived by a train from Medawachchiya.
Ever since the eastern districts of Batticaloa and Amparai were cleared of the Tamil Tiger rebels, they had difficulty in getting access to Colombo. This was the reason that, according to security officials, Colombo witnessed very few blasts in the past year.
But the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) started using the northern routes, and had established mini-bases in the areas north of Colombo like Wattala, which have a sizeable Tamil population. A few suicide jackets were recovered from Wattala recently.
Heavy fighting erupted along the battle lines in Northern Sri Lanka killed at least 46 Tiger rebels and two soldiers yesterday, the Media Center for National Security said today.
Seven Tigers were killed in separate confrontations between the rebels and security forces yesterday ahead of defence lines in the Andankulam area in Welioya, MCNS said.
Two soldiers also died while two others received injuries in a confrontation at Ethawetunuwewa, Welioya, the military reported.
Heavy fighting erupted in Vavuniya area killed at least twenty Tigers in separate incidents while another 19 Tiger rebels were killed in fighting along the battlefronts in Mannar and Welioya area, MCNS reported.
Two soldiers were injured yesterday in Killai area, Jaffna due to an anti- personnel mine explosion.