Sri Lanka Airstrikes Leave 8 Rebels Dead

From the Associated Press

The Sri Lankan air force bombed Tamil Tiger positions for a fourth straight day, killing eight guerrillas and wounding four, the rebels and military said Saturday. The attacks came as the government accused Finland and Denmark of giving in to terrorism by withdrawing cease-fire monitors.

Government planes bombed a rebel conference center in Karadiyanaru in Batticaloa district, 140 miles east of Colombo, the capital, said Pakkiyaraja Thayamohan, the rebels’ political head in the area.

“The air force attacked three times and dropped 12 bombs,” Thayamohan said. Two bombs were also dropped on Illupadichchenai, also in Batticaloa, the rebels said.

Military spokesman Brig. Prasad Samarasinghe confirmed the air assault. “Several air raids were conducted today on selected targets,” he said, without elaborating.


In other fighting, Samarasinghe said ground troops traded mortar fire with insurgents who had shut off water supplies to thousands of people living in government-controlled villages in Trincomalee, 140 miles northeast of Colombo.

The violence is the latest to threaten the country’s increasingly fragile 4-year-old cease-fire, which ended more than two decades of fighting that left more than 65,000 people dead.

On Friday, Finland and Denmark, two of the five countries in a European monitoring mission overseeing the truce, said they were withdrawing their monitors because of inadequate security.

Sri Lanka’s government on Saturday accused the two Scandinavian nations of giving in to terrorists.


“It is a bad precedent for the whole world, which considers terrorism as a cancerous menace and is fighting against it,” chief government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said.

Norway formed the five-nation monitoring team after brokering the 2002 truce. Subsequent peace talks broke down over rebel demands for sweeping autonomy.

Jehan Perera of the National Peace Council, an independent think tank, said the weakening of the monitoring team would have little immediate effect because neither side was respecting the truce.

“Both sides are violating the cease-fire in an open manner,” he said.


The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam began fighting for an independent Tamil homeland in 1983, accusing the majority Sinhalese of discrimination.

An escalation of violence in recent months has threatened a return to all-out war, with more than 750 people -- half of them civilians -- killed since December.