The Web Sri Lanka In Focus

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Sri Lanka violence kills 22: Government

A roadside blast in Sri Lanka's restive eastern region has killed two policemen while fighting in the north left at least 19 rebels and one soldier dead, the Government said.

A Japanese national visiting a Tokyo funded project in Batticaloa narrowly escaped the mine attack, but two policemen providing security for the group died in the explosion, the Japanese embassy here said.

"Our national is safe, but we are saddened that two Sri Lankan policemen, died in the Claymore attack," an official said.

The mine attack in Batticaloa also injured five people, including a civilian and two elite police commandos, the defence ministry said, blaming the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The Government earlier held elections in Batticaloa, after ejecting the rebels from the east last year.

Tamil Tiger rebels, who have been fighting for a separate homeland since 1972, are now largely confined to the island's north.

Sri Lanka warplanes bombed two suspected rebel targets in the north, the ministry said.

Russian built Mi24 helicopter gunships provided air cover for troops in northern Mannar, while fighter jets later pounded a building used by rebels to build boats in the guerrilla-controlled Kilinochchi area.

"Pilots have confirmed the targets were accurately hit," the statement said.

Fighting across the war-ravaged northern district, meanwhile, killed at least one soldier and 19 rebels on Tuesday, the Defence Ministry said.

There was no immediate comment from the LTTE, who are fighting to carve out an independent state for minority Tamils in the north and east of the majority Sinhalese island.

Security forces have killed at least 2,375 rebels since January while some 137 soldiers have died, according to the ministry.

Casualty figures cannot be independently verified because journalists and rights groups are not allowed access to the embattled areas.

Fighting has escalated since January, when Sri Lanka formally pulled out of a six-year Norwegian-arranged truce with the Tigers.

Source: ABC

Two Sri Lanka police killed escorting Japanese

Two Sri Lankan police were killed on Wednesday while escorting Japanese aid workers and three civilians were killed in crossfire between the military and Tamil Tiger rebels.

The two police were killed and seven others, including three civilians, were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded at the rear of a Japanese aid convoy visiting an agricultural irrigation project in Vavunathivu, northeast of Colombo.

"There were some Japanese officials. Police were escorting them," police Deputy Inspector General N.K. Ilangakoon told Reuters, saying the convoy was hit by a fragmentation mine.

The Japanese were not hurt in the blast, which occurred after the main convoy had already passed, Ilangakoon said.

Tiger rebels, who are fighting for an independent homeland in Sri Lanka's north and east, frequently target police and the military with claymore fragmentation mines.

Separately, the army said three fishermen were killed and three others wounded after they were caught in crossfire in the north.

Sri Lanka's conflict has intensified since 2006, when the military launched fresh offensives as a truce agreement broke down. The six-year truce was formally scrapped in January and Nordic monitors expelled, opening a new phase of a war that has killed more than 70,000 people since 1983.

Helicopter gunships attacked rebel bases in the northern Mannar district in support of ground troops, who have been engaged in bitter fighting since last week, the military said.

Air force jets also bombed a Tiger boatyard in the northeast, where a navy attack vessel was sunk last week by what rebels said was a suicide squad. The navy said the boat was sunk by a Tiger sea mine, with 10 crew still missing and feared dead.

The yard, where the Tigers build and repair fast boats to target the navy and land weapons, was destroyed in the bombing, although there was no information on whether any Tiger fighters had been killed, the military said. A spokesman for The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam was not immediately available for comment on the latest clashes in a 25-year civil war the military has vowed to end by December.

Source: Reuters

South Asian regional meeting on anti-terrorism rescheduled for April

Pakistan said on Tuesday that the South Asian regional meeting on counter-terrorism has been rescheduled due to hectic phase of government formation.

The regional meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries on counter-terrorism cooperation will be held from April 15 to 17 in Islamabad, said Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema.

The meeting will be held alongside the meeting of police chiefs of the SAARC.

The meeting hosted by Pakistan was originally scheduled from March 25 to 27.

"The new date for the important meeting of experts from the region has been set after necessary consultations with the secretariat of the organization and the governments of member countries," said Cheema at a news briefing.

Pakistan's lower parliament elected Yousuf Raza Gillani as the country's new prime minister on Monday. The cabinet members will be announced within days.

The SAARC consists of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Maldives.


India won’t allow division of Sri Lanka: Ratnasiri Wickremanayake


“India will never allow a separate independent state for Tamils in Sri Lanka because such a development will have a disastrous effect in India,” the island’s Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake told a gathering here.

“India has always been committed to Sri Lanka’s territorial integrity.”

The Prime Minister, who is on a four-day visit, claimed that Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam leader V. Prabakaran wanted to create a Tamil state by “including certain parts of India as well.


Tamil Nadu BJP opposes military aid to Lanka

Tamil Nadu BJP has opposed providing military equipment and training to Sri Lankan military saying that such a move will affect the island Tamils.
State president Mr L Ganesan, told reporters here that the Katchatheevu, an island near Tamil Nadu, given to Sri Lanka as per an agreement in 1974, should be retrieved. He said the Sri Lankan government had violated the Katchatheevu agreement, which provided rights to Tamil Nadu fishermen to dry their nets in the island. Now, the Sri Lankan navy had set up sea mines near the island, denying even the fishing rights for Tamil Nadu fishermen, he said.
Meanwhile, Tamil film director Mr Vijaya T Rajendar, today announced that he was resigning from the post of deputy chairman to the State Small Savings Commission, since he would lead a protest against Centre's assistance to Sri Lanka in its genocidal war against Tamils. Mr Rajendar said that he was resigning since holding a government post while leading a protest against the Centre would create an embarrassing situation for chief minister Mr M Karunanidhi, who had appointed him.
In a related development, Tamil nationalist leader Mr Nedumaran, who held a protest demonstration against the Centre's military aid to the island courted arrest alongwith his supporters. Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam, which split from the Dravidar Kazhagam, has announced public meetings throughout the state, condemning Centre's help to Sri Lanka government.


Over 550 Dead In March As Sri Lankan Clashes Continue

Siddique Islam - AHN South Asia Correspondent

Colombo, Sri Lanka (AHN) - Heavy fighting between government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels in northern areas of Sri Lanka have killed an estimated 501 militants and 54 soldiers, according to officials in Colombo. Sri Lankan military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara told reporters that an unknown number of rebels and 223 soldiers have also been injured in the clashes dating back to March 5.

Furthermore, military operations are continuing in Mannar, Vavuniya and Jaffna. "The security forces have been successful in capturing 31 square kilometers of territory south of the A14 road in Mannar," Nanayakkara said according to Chinese state-run media.

The fighting has intensified in the northern battle front after the government's announcement in mid-January to withdraw from the 2002 Norwegian-backed cease-fire with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The rebels have been battling for an independent homeland since 1972 in an ethnic conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.