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S.Lanka rebels threaten monitors after heavy fighting

Written by: Staff
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KILINOCHCHI, Sri Lanka, May 12 (Reuters) Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels warned international truce monitors not to travel aboard navy ships as tensions on the island remained high today after the worst clash since a 2002 truce.

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) craft attacked naval fast attack boats yesterday off the island's north coast, sinking one and killing 17 crew and damaging another with a monitor from the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) aboard.

The government retaliated with air strikes on the rebels' northern heartland, but the island was quiet today, the military said.

Swedish Major-General Ulf Henricsson, head of the SLMM, raced to the rebel de facto capital Kilinochchi today to discuss the rising violence, which some diplomats fear could escalate and reignite a two-decade civil war.

''SLMM monitors are used by the Sri Lankan Navy as human shields,'' the rebels said in a letter posted on their official Web site www.ltteps.org overnight.

''We urge you for the last time not to be on board Sri Lankan Naval vessels until further notice from us. If you choose to ignore our warning and request, we are not responsible for the consequences ... Please take this as the last warning to you.'' The Tigers said their warships were on exercise off the coast when they were attacked by the navy.

The navy believes the attack on the naval craft was part of an assault on a nearby unarmed transport ship carrying over 700 troops also escorted by the SLMM.

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