A town in Sri Lanka's embattled east shut down Friday as a sign of respect for a Hindu priest gunned down four days after he welcomed President Mahinda Rajapaksa to a former rebel stronghold.
Military officials said shops closed and transport was halted in Valachchenai to mourn Selliah Parameswar, who was dragged out of his house and killed late Wednesday by a group of unidentified gunmen.
"The security forces have tightened security in the area ensuring continuous essential services," the defence ministry said in a statement.
"Troops are also engaged in providing security to vehicles of non-governmental organisations engaged in facilitating essential services."
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) denied on Thursday killing the priest and blamed a breakaway faction allegedly collaborating with security forces.
"Family members of the priest said they suspected the paramilitary (breakaway Tiger group) of the murder because the paramilitaries suspected that the priest informed the LTTE about military positions," the Tigers said.
The priest blessed Rajapaksa last week when he visited a former LTTE stronghold captured by security forces in January after weeks of fighting that left 41 soldiers and 331 rebels killed by official count.
"I am deeply shocked and saddened to learn of the assassination of Parameswar, who was cruelly gunned down by LTTE terrorists," Rajapaksa said in a statement.
Fighting has escalated between troops and Tamil Tigers in the past year despite a truce that has been in place since February 2002.