Govt extends emergency rule in Sri Lanka
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Govt extends emergency rule in Sri Lanka

Govt extended emergency rule for another month hours after Tiger rebels in two small boats fired at navy vessels in Trincomalee.

india Updated: Mar 21, 2006 20:39 IST

Sri Lanka's government extended emergency rule for another month on Tuesday, hours after Tamil Tiger rebels in two small boats fired at navy vessels and then retreated when they drew return fire, officials said.

The incident took place near the strategic northeastern port of Trincomalee.

The government controls the main port and the town, but the rebels operate from adjoining areas.

The navy suffered no casualties, Brig Sudhir Samarasinghe said. Officials did not know if there were any injuries among the rebels, he said.

Such incidents have been straining a Norwegian-brokered 2002 truce that halted Sri Lanka's two decades of civil war.

Meanwhile, nearly 100 members of Sri Lanka's powerful Buddhist clergy marched to the Norwegian Embassy, accusing the country of siding with Tamil Tigers and giving them diplomatic status.

The protesters from the National Front of Buddhist Clergy demanded that Norway end its role as Sri Lanka's peace broker.

A vast majority of Sri Lanka's 74 per cent Sinhalese community are Buddhists and the monks consider themselves as their guardians of the nation.

A 2002 Norway-brokered cease-fire has come under serious strain, with 75 government soldiers and sailors killed since Dec 4.

The rebels, for their part, have accused the military of attacking civilians suspected of supporting the guerrillas.

Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake asked Parliament to approve another one-month extension of emergency rule, saying it was needed to protect public security and government property.

"During the last month there have been several incidents and 10 people, including security forces members, have been killed," he said.

Lawmakers approved the extension of the emergency regulations, which allow security forces to detain terror suspects indefinitely.

The state of emergency was imposed last August after gunmen, believed to be Tamil Tiger rebels, assassinated Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar in Colombo.

Since violence began rising in December, at least 160 people -- including at least 81 government security personnel -- have been killed in the northeast.

The government has blamed the attacks on the Tigers, who have accused the government of striking at them or helping anti-rebel groups wage attacks.

The government denies the charges. In an attempt to save the cease-fire, the two sides agreed in talks last month in Geneva to try to quell the violence and to meet again in April.

The rebels want to create a separate homeland for the country's ethnic Tamil minority, saying they are discriminated against by the majority Sinhalese.

First Published: Mar 21, 2006 20:39 IST