Sri Lankan train chugs into Tamil Tiger rebels' territory after 23 years

  • AFP, Colombo
  • |
  • Updated: Sep 15, 2013 00:52 IST

A train linking the political home of Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels with the rest of the island rolled into service on Saturday after a 23-year interruption, officials said.

The train, carrying President Mahinda Rajapakse, arrived in the town of Kilinochchi, 330 kilometres (200 miles) north of the capital Colombo, four years after the end of a nearly four-decade civil war.

The project is part of efforts to promote reconciliation with the Tamil minority and heal the scars of the long-running separatist conflict.

A new track had to be laid along a 63-kilometre stretch of the line inside the former war zone because the rebels had removed rails and used sleepers to build bunkers during the war, officials said.

Rajapakse was carrying "a message of friendship" from the Sinhalese people in the south to the Tamil-dominated north, the president's office said in a statement.

The rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam launched their struggle for a separate Tamil homeland in 1972 and set up their political headquarters in Kilinochchi in 1995.

Before the conflict escalated, trains regularly operated between Colombo and Kilinochchi.


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