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Suspected rebel group threatens to attack military

A secretive group, widely believed to be a front organisation for Tamil Tiger rebels, has vowed to step up attacks against the Govt.

india Updated: May 06, 2006 15:02 IST

A Japanese peace envoy was to arrive in Sri Lanka on Saturday for talks with the president and will push for a meeting with Tamil rebel leaders to try and prevent a return to civil war amid spiraling violence.

A secretive group widely believed to be a front organisation for Tamil Tiger rebels, meanwhile, has vowed to step up attacks against Sri Lankan government forces and warned civilians to stay away from military camps and check points.

"We request the people to move into safer areas and avoid being near army camps and check points," said a statement released on Friday by the People's Army.

"We plan to escalate attacks ... therefore we request our brethren to cooperate with us to drive out the enemy from our soil."

The People's Army has made similar threats before in statements posted on pro-rebel web sites.

The group first surfaced in December, when it claimed responsibility for anti-personnel mine attacks against government forces that month.

Rivals claim it is a front for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the main rebel group that has signed a ceasefire with the government.

Japanese envoy, Yasushi Akashi, was arriving Saturday for a four-day visit, the Japanese embassy said.

Akashi will meet with President Mahinda Rajapaksa in Colombo and "is seeking the possibility of" meeting with rebel leadership in the north, the embassy said.

Analysts regard his visit as part of efforts to stem a slide toward full-scale civil war. His visit comes amid continuing violence that has left more than 150 people dead since April, threatening a 2002 cease-fire brokered by Norway.

On Friday, Sri Lanka's navy thwarted a suspected attempted suicide attack by the rebels on a naval base, about 140 kilometers northwest of the capital, by using an explosive-laden boat, which blew up when it was hit by fire from navy vessels, Navy spokesman Commander DKP Dassanayake said.

The navy boats fired back and one of the attacking boats exploded and sank, Dassanayake said.

The size of the blast and the fragments left behind by the blast indicated it was packed with explosives and intended to be used in a suicide attack.

No casualties from the incidents were reported by the navy side and there was no independent confirmation of the incident.