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Sri Lanka monitors believe ex-Tigers work with army

Written by: Staff
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VAVUNIYA, Sri Lanka, May 16 (Reuters) Former Tamil Tigers now part of a breakaway group appear to be carrying out attacks and extortion in Sri Lanka's north and probably have army backing, despite denials, international truce monitors say.

The government denies any links to the so-called Karuna group, but the Tigers appear to have retaliated for attacks by ambushing the army. The rebels say Karuna killings must stop before they will come to peace talks.

''I firmly believe that Karuna is going around this area,'' said Jouni Suninen, head of the district office of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) in the northern town of Vavuniya.

''We have eyewitnesses who tell us they have seen Karunas around. I cannot see how they could be operating here without the support of the army.'' The monitors will not give details of individual cases for fear the victims could be tracked down and killed.

Former eastern Tiger commander Col. Karuna Amman split from the mainstream Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels in 2004, taking control of much of their eastern territories, but was swiftly pushed out by a Tiger offensive.

His group says they have attacked the rebels in the east, but not the north.

A senior Karuna aide and member of his fledgling political party, the TMVP, said there was no truth to the SLMM reports.

''We don't have any military activities in that area,'' he said, denying the group had any support from the military.

MORE REUTERS SI SND1106

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