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Five rebels dead in Lankan air force bombing

The Sri Lankan air force bombed rebel-held areas, killing at least five insurgents, in the latest violence to menace the island nation.
None | By Associated Press, Colombo
PUBLISHED ON JUL 28, 2006 11:05 AM IST

Sri Lanka's air force bombed rebel-held areas, including an unfinished runway and a rebel camp, killing five insurgents, the military and a pro-rebel website said, in the latest violence to menace the island nation.

Tensions also were high over an alleged rebel blockade of a key source of water for 15,000 people in government-held villages in the northeast.

The pro-rebel website, TamilNet, said five rebels were killed and another five wounded when air strikes hit a camp close to the water facility on Thursday.

In separate airstrikes on the unfinished runway, the government said it had acted on information that the insurgents had cleared forests and had already built an unpaved air strip.

The pro-rebel website TamilNet reported the air attack, but made no mention of the air strip being bombed. It will did not mention any casualties.

On Wednesday, the military launched airstrikes on a rebel-controlled area in the northeastern Trincomalee district, alleging insurgents were blocking the flow of water from a plant there.

The Tamil Tigers justified their action by saying the government had reneged on a promise to build a water tower for areas under rebel control.

The government said the rebels' water blockade had affected 15,000 families living in government-controlled villages, many of whom are without water to irrigate rice crops.

Local television showed some of the villagers calling on the government to take punitive action against the Tigers.

The rebels said Wednesday's air strikes wounded two civilians, and that they were a violation of the country's cease-fire.

During Thursday's air raid, five rebel fighters were killed and five wounded, TamilNet said.

The Tamil Tigers have been fighting for over two decades for a separate state in the northeast, which they consider to be the historical and cultural homeland of the ethnic Tamils.

They already control swaths of the region, but are intent on capturing all of what they refer to as "Tamil Eelam," or the Tamil homeland.

About 65,000 people were killed before the 2002 cease-fire halted full scale hostilities.

In recent months, however, an escalation of violence has threatened a return to all-out war.

More than 750 people -- half of them civilians -- have been killed since December.

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