Lanka rebels attacked, govt pledges pointless
COLOMBO, Apr 8 (Reuters) Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels accused the army of attacking them today and warned the murder of a pro-rebel politician the day before showed government pledges ahead of new peace talks were meaningless.
The military denied any involvement both in any attack today or yesteday's murder in the northeastern port of Trincomalee, but Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) media co-ordinator Daya Master said troops had attacked a rebel position south of the town early today.
''Sri Lankan military attacked with 50 mm mortars and ran an attack towards the LTTE lines,'' he said. ''But there were no casualties.'' The two sides are due to meet for a second round of talks in Geneva between April 19-21, but the rebels have yet to categorically state they will attend. The talks are seen key to avoiding a slide into violence that could re-ignite a two decade war that has already killed more than 64,000 people.
Each side accuses the other of failing to honour pledges made at the last round of talks, where the government promised to disarm armed 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
Violence had fallen off sharply since the two sides agreed to meet, but recent days have seen a spike in killings. The military accused the Tigers of killing two government Home Guard troopers yesterday, while the rebels said the government was behind the murder of V Vigneswaran the same day.
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 TNA 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.