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Sri Lanka rebels, army both say attacked in east

Written by: Staff
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Colombo, Apr 8: Suspected Tamil Tiger rebels shot and wounded two Sri Lankan soldiers today, the army said, shortly after the rebels themselves complained they had come under fire from the military in the run-up to peace talks.

The two sides are due to meet later in the month in Switzerland for talks aimed at averting a slide towards a resumption of the island's two decade civil war.

Violence had fallen since the two sides agreed to meet earlier in the year but has spiked again in recent days.

''They have fired at one of our observation posts,'' army spokesman Brigadier Prasad Samarsinghe said. ''Two of our men were seriously injured.'' Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) media co-ordinator Daya Master said the military had attacked a rebel position in the east early in the morning with 50 mm mortars, but that no rebels had been injured.

The military denied any involvement in the attack on the Tigers, and the rebels could not immediately be reached for comment regarding the later attack on an army checkpoint. Both incidents took place near the northeastern port of Trincomalee.

Each side accuses the other of failing to honour pledges made at the last round of talks in Geneva in February, where the government promised to disarm groups operating in their areas and the rebels pledged to avoid any military action.

The Tigers, who want a separate Tamil homeland in the north and east where they already run a de facto state, accuse the army of using breakaway rebels known as the Karuna group to attack them.

The government says Karuna is not operating from their territory -- despite testimony to the contrary from Nordic ceasefire monitors -- and that they therefore cannot find any armed groups to disarm.

''POINTLESS, LOFTY CLAIMS''

The military accused the Tigers of killing two government Home Guard troopers on Friday, while the rebels said the government was behind the murder of pro-rebel local politician V. Vigneswaran the same day -- a charge the government denies.

Vigneswaran, who had been due to become an MP for the rebel political proxies the Tamil National Alliance to replace another parliamentarian gunned down at Christmas midnight mass, was shot dead as he worked in a bank in Trincomalee.

The alliance blamed the Karuna group for the killing but the Tigers said that as the bank was located between two police stations the responsibility lay with the government.

''Lofty claims of the government that it is committed to the (ceasefire agreement) and its pledge in Geneva to curb paramilitary activities in (government) areas are all meaningless in the context of what is taking place on the ground,'' LTTE political wing leader S.P. Thamilselvan said in a letter to Nordic truce monitors published on a Tiger Web site.

The rebels had previously said they feared Karuna would attack them as they passed through the airport on their way to Geneva and would not attend talks unless President Mahinda Rajapakse guaranteed their safety.

This he did on Thursday at a meeting with peace facilitator Norway. The rebels have yet to say if that has persuaded them to go, but most diplomats believe they will ultimately attend the meeting in order to complain about the government.

REUTERS

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