Colombo, Feb.4 : Sri Lanka today observed its 60th Independence Day amid tight security here, even as fighting is said to have intensified between government troops and the rebel Tamil Tigers.
Security forces were placed on a state of high alert in Colombo and in other parts of the country, as a military parade was being watched by President Mahinda Rajapakse, other dignitaries and the general public in the island-nation's capital.
A series of bombings over the weekend, which were reportedly masterminded by the rebel LTTE, has claimed 37 lives. Twelve of the 37 were killed in a suicide bomb attack at the main railway station on Sunday, while 18 died in a bus blast in Dambulla on Saturday. Seven were killed by a blast inside a suburban zoo.
In a speech marking the 60th anniversary of independence, President Mahinda Rajapaksa said Sri Lanka was facing the challenge of eradicating terrorism and poverty. The parade is the first major event since the truce officially ended. Much of the centre of Colombo has been sealed off by military checkpoint.
Thousands of police and troops are on the streets and the navy has stepped up coastal patrols to combat a possible sea-borne attack.
Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara was quoted as saying that the armed forces were expecting the rebels to launch an attack.
Last month, the government pulled out of the 2002 ceasefire with the Tamil Tigers, arguing the rebels had used it to re-group and re-arm.
Sri Lanka's army commander Lieutenant-General Sarath Fonseka has said he now aims to defeat the rebels by the end of the year.
The Tigers have marked independence day by once again saying they will fight on for a separate state for the Tamil minority in the north and east.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have been fighting for an independent state in the north and east since 1983.