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LTTE accused of killing farmers

The Sri Lankan military has accused Tamil rebels of slaughtering six Sinhalese rice farmers working in their fields to provoke race riots.

india Updated: Apr 26, 2006 19:16 IST

The Sri Lankan military on Monday accused Tamil rebels of slaughtering six Sinhalese rice farmers working in their fields to provoke race riots between the two ethnic groups.

In other violence, government troops shot and killed two ethnic Tamil rebels after coming under attack in eastern Batticaloa, the Defence Ministry said.

Separately, the rebels killed two policemen in the latest attack in northern Vavuniya, a police spokesman said.

The latest bloodshed is part of an upsurge in violence that has left at least 79 people dead this month, 42 of them soldiers or police, placing the country's four-year-old ceasefire in jeopardy.

The rebels last week backed out of the latest round peace talks that were scheduled to start on Monday in Geneva, citing attacks on ethnic Tamil civilians and other disputes with the government.

The army on Monday identified the bodies of the six found in the northeastern Trincomalee district the day before.

"With the sinister motive of triggering communal clashes, LTTE terrorists brutally gunned down six innocent Sinhalese farmers who were in their paddy fields," the army said on its website, calling the rebels by their formal name, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

"LTTE terrorists appeared to be now resorting to these types of senseless killings with the intention of provoking the Sinhalese community for a repetition of ethnic clashes," said the statement.

Earlier, the police had said the bodies bore multiple cut wounds, not gunshot wounds.

In the eastern region of Batticaloa, rebels allegedly triggered an anti-personnel mine Monday while government soldiers were clearing a route ahead of a trip by military vehicles, said military spokesman Prasad Samarasinghe.

"After the attack, our troops retaliated, killing two terrorists," Samarasinghe said. One soldier was wounded, and troops seized one anti-personnel mine and hand grenades, he said. In the day's other incident, rebels attacked a police foot patrol, killing two, police spokesman, Rienzie Perera said.

The two were home guards, a part of the police force generally deployed in villages.

The rebel campaign was triggered by anti-Tamil riots in 1983 that followed the killing of 13 Sri Lankan soldiers in northern Jaffna.

On Sunday, government troops shot and killed three rebels in two separate incidents, also in Trincomalee district. Trincomalee, 215 kilometers northeast of the capital, Colombo, has a strategic port.

The government controls the town, but the rebels operates from the outskirts and jungles. The Tamil Tigers demand a separate Tamil homeland and accuse the Sinhalese-dominated government of discrimination.

The war left 65,000 people dead before the ceasefire.