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Tamil Tigers warn against military attack

Five years after a ceasefire offered a respite from decades of violence, Sri Lanka's ferocious ethnic war is raging again.

world Updated: Apr 20, 2007 14:27 IST

Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels, who have launched everything from suicide bombings to air raids, will unleash their "full capacity" if government forces try to take their northern strongholds, their political chief said.

Five years after a ceasefire offered a respite from decades of violence, Sri Lanka's ferocious ethnic war is raging again.

Fighter jets roared over the town of Kilinochchi yesterday for a third straight day, pounding nearby rebel positions.

Last week, Sri Lanka's top defence official said the cease-fire had "no meaning" and the military would soon go after the rebels' northern heartland, where they run a mini-state complete with border guards, courts and even traffic police.

"If the worst thing comes, of course then Colombo and its chauvinistic forces will realize what the full capacity of the LTTE is, and the impact would be very serious," Tiger leader SP Tamilselvansaid on Thursday.

Still, he said the Tigers are willing to sit down again for peace talks, and urged other countries to step in and broker an end to the fighting.

"There is place yet for the international community to act on this, and for negotiations to restart," he said in a rare interview from the rebel's de-facto capital -- an area that's been largely cut off since August.

"It is only because we have faith in that, we haven't shown our reaction to all what is being done by the government," he said.

The Tigers have been fighting since 1983 for a separate homeland for Sri Lanka's 3.1 million mostly Hindu Tamils, concentrated in eastern and northern Sri Lanka.

The Tamils have faced decades of discrimination from the predominantly Buddhist Sinhalese, who make up a majority of the Indian Ocean island nation's 19 million people.

At least 5,000 people were killed before the 2002 cease-fire. Air raids, bus bombings, suicide attacks and jungle clashes have left an estimated 4,000 more dead since December 2005.

These days in rebel territory, the onset of dusk is often accompanied by the steady thump of artillery fire in the distance as the two sides skirmish along the front lines.

Air raids have also become more frequent, with the first of Thursday's bombing runs hitting a rebel mortar position and an air defence facility, the military said.

Hours before Tamilselvan spoke, jets could be seen streaking low over Kilinochchi, headed for the air raids.

They returned in the evening, dropping flares that lit up the night sky north of town and prompted residents to scramble into backyard bomb shelters and trenches.

Flashes could be seen coming from the same direction, but it was not clear what, if anything, was hit, although the military today said it had bombed an Tiger training camp in the Jaffna peninsula, north of town.

Tamilselvan said "We have only been doing self-defenc. We have been just trying to make sure the occupying forces don't enter into" rebel territory.

Pushed to elaborate on his thinly veiled threat of even more bloodshed if the army pushes into the north, Tamilselvan only said: "I am not going to spell out in so many words what the type of action is going to be.