Sri Lankan attack disrupts peace envoy

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Monday, January 23, 2006

Emblem of the Tamil Tigers

Suspected Tamil Tiger rebels have ambushed and killed three soldiers in Sri Lanka's volatile eastern region, as a Norwegian peace broker flew in to the country in a last-ditch peace bid.

The patrol was ambushed with a fragmentation mine - the most recent in a series of attacks which have killed over 70 military personnel since December.

The attack came after Norwegian peace envoy Erik Solheim arrived in Sri Lanka for truce talks. As he arrived, three soldiers were killed in a landmine explosion in the east, which the army blamed on the Tamil Tigers. Rohan Abeywardene, deputy inspector general of police said the Tamil Tigers were responsible for the attack.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have threatened to resume their armed struggle this year unless President Mahinda Rajapakse grants independence - which he has refused to do. The Tamil Tigers want a separate state in the north and east of Sri Lanka.

The rebels have fought the government since 1983 to create a separate homeland for ethnic minority Tamils, accusing the majority Sinhalese-dominated state of discrimination.

The rebels say they are ready to use suicide bombers, as in the past, if war resumes. The Sri Lankan army is preparing for the worst with analysts say both sides are already engaged in an undeclared war. The Tigers, accuse the military and government-backed paramilitaries of a litany of abuses, including rape and executions of Tamil civilians and rebels.

About 65,000 people were killed in the conflict before the cease-fire. Peace talks broke down in April 2003, when the Tigers withdrew, demanding autonomy in the Tamil-majority northeast region.

Over 100 people have been killed in the escalating violence since December.

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