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Seven killed in Sri Lanka mine attacks

The two blasts raised to 63 the number of people, mostly security personnel, killed in bomb attacks in the past week.

india Updated: Apr 26, 2006 15:14 IST

At least seven people, including four soldiers, were killed in two mine attacks in Sri Lanka on Monday, officials said, one day after Tamil Tiger rebels said they would not attend peace talks.

The two blasts raised to 63 the number of people, mostly security personnel, killed in bomb attacks in the past week, in the latest upsurge of violence linked to the decades-old Tamil separatist conflict.

On Sunday, the rebels said they were suspending their participation in talks set to take place in Switzerland next week on saving a shaky Norwegian-arranged ceasefire in place since February 2002.

A powerful landmine exploded Monday near an army truck in Vavuniya district, killing four soldiers and wounding eight others, a military official said from the town of Vavuniya, 260 kilometres north of the capital Colombo.

Another Claymore mine exploded further north in the Jaffna peninsula, killing the man who was carrying it and two others, a military source said.

Early investigations indicated the device was being set up to target a military convoy, but it had exploded prematurely, the source said.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) announced on Sunday they had sent a letter to peace broker Norway saying they would not attend the talks in Switzerland until Colombo removed "restrictions" on their cadres.

"We... wish to inform you with sadness that until the hurdles in front of us to attend Geneva talks are removed and a more conducive environment created, our Geneva team is unable to come to the Geneva talks," the Tigers said.

"While the government of Sri Lanka is holding well published 'all party conferences' prior to the Geneva talks, it is placing all of these hurdles to prevent us from holding even a central committee meeting of our leadership."

The rebels stopped short of completely pulling out of the talks, scheduled for two days from April 24. The talks were originally due to start on Wednesday and last three days, but were scaled down to two days and postponed. The rebels urged Oslo to pressure Colombo to implement the ceasefire, which has come under increased pressure due to the upsurge in violence, which the government here blames on the Tigers.

The Sri Lankan government on Saturday accused the Tigers of making flimsy excuses to stay away from the Swiss talks and insisted that no new conditions had been placed on the guerrillas.

The government's top peace negotiator said the LTTE had stepped up their attacks because they were not serious about attending the negotiations.

"I believe the ball is now in their court," Palitha Kohona said.

"We are doing everything to go to Geneva for the talks but we can't clap with one hand. There must be commitment by both sides."

The Tigers called off a planned movement of some 32 senior officials on Saturday to initially raise doubts about the Geneva meeting.

Diplomats involved in the peace process said the latest stand-off could lead to more violence.

Four previous peace efforts have ended in failure in a country where more than 60,000 people have been killed in three decades of ethnic bloodshed between the majority Sinhalese and minority Tamils.

Both sides have accused each other of failing to deliver on pledges to bring an end to the violence.