At least six people were killed earlier this week in Sri Lanka's embattled northeast, the rebel Tamil Tigers said Friday, as Nordic truce monitors mulled their future role on the troubled island.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said three civilians were killed in a Claymore mine attack in the rebel-held area of Kokkupadaiyan on Wednesday, blaming the Sri Lankan military for the blast.
They said another three men were gunned down in the east of the island later that night, just hours before a key meeting of five Nordic nations to decide the future of their monitoring mission in Sri Lanka.
The Oslo-arranged meeting in the Norwegian capital lasted five hours on Thursday but ended without an announcement of a breakthrough to end the crisis over truce monitoring.
The meeting was called after the LTTE demanded that monitors from European Union nations Denmark, Finland and Sweden quit the mission, saying they could no longer be neutral after the EU labelled the group a terrorist organisation.
The Tigers' demand would force 37 of the 57 monitors now in Sri Lanka to quit, leaving only those from Iceland and Norway and effectively hamstringing the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM).
Representatives from the Colombo government did not attend Thursday's talks.
Norway's special envoy to Sri Lanka, Jon Hanssen-Bauer, told the agency in Oslo after the meeting that the Tigers had given the SLMM "some extra time" before the three EU member states would have to withdraw.
He did not provide a specific timeframe.
The LTTE had said it wanted the monitors pulled out within a month but Norway had said the process would take at least six months.
"During our meeting we went through the different scenarios of what will happen if the observers from the EU countries have to leave the country," Hanssen-Bauer said, urging the LTTE to "reconsider its decision."
He said the SLMM representatives would now go back to their respective countries and discuss what steps to take.
"I expect a decision within very few weeks about the future of SLMM," Hanssen-Bauer said.
Sri Lanka's top official coordinating peace efforts with Norway, Palitha Kohona, insisted there should be no unilateral action to change the ceasefire agreement in effect since February 2002.
Diplomats say Norway is likely to try to strike a compromise on the LTTE demand rather than pull out altogether.
The LTTE has also warned against Norway's withdrawal, saying in a statement Monday that war would be "unavoidable" if Oslo quits the peace process.