Lanka rebels warn of attacks (SRI LANKA)


Around 600 people, half of them civilians, have been killed so far this year in what analysts say are apparent tit-for-tat attacks by both sides, and many diplomats fear a low intensity conflict is set to escalate. The violence continued yesterday. The Tigers accused the military of killing four rebels, including one of their senior commanders, in a series of claymore fragmentation mine blasts in the northwestern district of Mannar.


(10.06.2006)

JAFFNA, Sri Lanka: A suspected Tamil Tiger front organisation vowed yesterday to intensify attacks against Sri Lanka's military as mounting violence stokes fears that the island is sliding back into civil war.

The Tamil Resurgence Force, which emerged in December and is one of a clutch of groups the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) say have rallied to their cause, said it would also attack Tamil government allies.

The threat comes two days after the rebels plunged diplomatic efforts to salvage the peace process into crisis by refusing to hold talks in Oslo and demanding that truce monitors from European Union nations withdraw in protest at the LTTE's inclusion on an EU list of terrorist groups.

"All this while we reduced our activities and our attacks due to the GCE A-level examinations," the Tamil Resurgence Force said in a statement.

"Now that the exams are coming to an end, we would be intensifying our attacks on the military and EPDP in a few days' time. Hence we request the public not to unnecessarily move around on the roads and to avoid any movements close to military installations."

The EPDP is a former paramilitary group opposed to the Tigers which joined the political mainstream and now has a cabinet minister. Analysts say militant members are involved in attacks on the rebels and their supporters.

The Tigers say they remain committed to the 2002 ceasefire despite a rash of attacks and ambushes that have killed dozens of servicemen. But many observers believe they are spoiling for a war.

"We are fighting for the liberation of the Tamil people and their freedom," said S Puleedevan, head of the Tigers' peace secretariat. "Any solutions for the Tamil problems must be based on the right to self-determination of the Tamil nation.

"If the war is thrust upon us, definitely we will face it."

Around 600 people, half of them civilians, have been killed so far this year in what analysts say are apparent tit-for-tat attacks by both sides, and many diplomats fear a low intensity conflict is set to escalate.

The violence continued yesterday. The Tigers accused the military of killing four rebels, including one of their senior commanders, in a series of claymore fragmentation mine blasts in the northwestern district of Mannar.

"All these people, those who are attacking the security forces in Jaffna, have been trained by the Tigers," said military spokesman Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe.

"If they have been given military training by the Tigers, they are under their organisation. They are terrorists."

On Friday the pro-rebel website www.tamilnet.com posted grisly photographs of a family of four the Tigers and the army accuse each other of butchering in Mannar, including the bloody corpses of two children hanged from ceiling beams.

In the army-held northern enclave of Jaffna, which is hemmed in by a heavily-guarded border with the Tigers' de facto state in the north, shootings and grenade attacks now occur almost daily and residents live in constant fear.

"Today's statement by the Tamil Resurgence Force means there will be more attacks. Then there will be more killings," said conflict-weary Jaffna grocery store owner Vettivel Sasikanthan, wearing a traditional sarong.

He and his family have been displaced twice by the two-decade civil war - forced to flee Jaffna in 1995 and then again in 2000, leaving a once prosperous business behind him.

Cooking oil and diesel are in short supply because of border closures, the price of sugar has risen 30% in a month and construction work has ground to a halt because hundreds of lorries transporting cement and iron rods have been held up in government territory.

"Only after there is total normality can we live in peace. Until then every Jaffna citizen has to live in fear," the 50-year-old added.

Norway yesterday said it intended to continue to act as peace broker between Sri Lanka and Tamil Tiger rebels despite the recent breakdown in talks between the two sides which had thrown further Norwegian mediation into doubt.

The rebels on Thursday aborted a two-day meeting in Oslo with Colombo representatives arranged by Norway to discuss the safety of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) overseeing a fragile truce.

"It's not all negative, we stand ready to help both parties in any way to take the peace process forward," Norway's special envoy for the peace process, Jon Hanssen-Bauer, said by telephone from Oslo.

The initiative for progress lay however with the parties themselves, Hanssen-Bauer stressed.

"It is up to the two sides to come forward with their own initiatives and ideas," he said.

"Norway will not be taking any new initiatives," Hanssen-Bauer added.

Norway declared Thursday's Oslo talks a failure when it was unable to orchestrate a face-to-face encounter between the two, blaming the Tigers for the breakdown.

Norwegian officials also faulted the European Union for offending the rebels at a sensitive time, by adding theLTTE to its list of terrorist organisations last month.

"The EU decision was taken on the basis of certain criteria about which organisations should be on the list, without taking into consideration the adverse consequences the decision might have for their own member states," the director of the Oslo Peace Research Institute (PRIO), Stein Toennesson, said.

"The EU is not suited for taking positions on acute political problems. It has long been known that the LTTE, through the Norwegian facilitators, has tried to avoid ending up on the EU terror list," Toennesson said.

The rebels called for the removal of SLMM truce monitors originating from EU states, following the Union's decision.

Norwegian diplomats said the recalling of EU members of the SLMM would reduce the mission to 20 Norwegian and Icelandic peacekeepers, from the current 60, which includes observers from EU states Sweden, Denmark and Finland.

The presence of monitors from EU member states was the only sticking point for the rebels. "Their (the Tigers') only problem with the SLMM's work is the observers from the three EU countries due to the Union's terror list prescription," Hanssen-Bauer said.

He stressed the LTTE remained committed to the peace process.

Von: 11.06.2006, http://www.gulf-times.com

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