Colombo, Jan 18: At least nine people were killed by a group of suspected Tamil Tiger rebels in a remote village in Sri Lanka's Southern Monaragala district last night, a day after 27 civilians were killed in a bus blast in the same district, defence sources here said.
''A group of LTTE terrorists have carried out a cowardly attack at the civilians at Kalawalgala, a remote village in the Thanamalwila area around ten, last night,'' the Defence Ministry said. ''According to the available information, nine innocent civilians have been butchered during the night raid carried out by the terrorists,'' it said, adding that the gunmen opened fire at the civilians.
Quoting latest reports, the Defence Ministry claimed that the LTTE had targeted civilians who were ''assisting the Civil Defence Force personnel after having alerted by the terrorists presence''.
''It is now believed that the terrorists had been murdering civilians after forcibly taking them into a jungle patch before the villagers became suspicious,'' the Defence Ministry said.
The government troops have already started a search operation in these jungle areas aiming to flush out the rebels in the hiding, following Wednesday's twin blast in the region in which 32 people were killed and 65 others, including three soldiers, were wounded.
There was no immediate reaction from the LTTE in this regard.
Yesterday, special commandos engaged in flushing search operation in the Weliara area were confronted with a group of LTTE cadres. One commando was injured in the operation.
''According to defence sources, the terrorists have laid anti- personnel mines in the area in order to slow down the army pursuit,'' the Defence Ministry said.
Up in the Northern front, the government troops continued to step up their campaign to march into the rebel held areas. Sri Lanka Air Force carried out an air raid yesterday ''targeting a leaders' meeting point'' completely destroying the target.
But a pro-rebel website claimed that seven civilians, including children were wounded in the air raid.