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Lanka military says rebels attack refugee bus

world Updated: Feb 14, 2009 13:16 IST

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A suspected Tamil Tiger rebel hurled a hand grenade at a bus full of war displaced refugees, killing a woman and wounding 13 others on Saturday, the military said. The bus was attacked in Puliyankulam village in the north while transporting people who fled the embattled region into government territory, military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said. Rebel officials could not be contacted for comment. The military's claim could not be independently verified because journalists are barred from the war zone.

A 59-year-old woman was killed and the wounded included four children, Nanayakkara said.

The government has accused the Tigers _ who have recently lost their main strongholds to the government and are cornered in a small sliver of coastal land _ of holding scores of people as human shields and killing civilians who want to escape. The rebels have denied the allegations.

On Friday troops fought the Tigers near Vishwamadu village, which was recently captured by the government, and found five rebel bodies along with assault rifles, Nanayakkara said.

The recent military victories have provided Sri Lanka with the best chance of militarily crushing the rebel group and ending its 25-year campaign for an independent homeland for the country's ethnic minority Tamils, who have suffered marginalisation by successive governments controlled by ethnic Singhalese. More than 70,000 have been killed in the violence.