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Lankan military denies killing Tiger rebel

An armed group killed a Tamil Tiger rebel during an attack on a sentry point and then retreated toward a government base.

india Updated: Mar 04, 2006 13:15 IST

An armed group killed a Tamil Tiger rebel during an attack on a sentry point in eastern Sri Lanka and retreated toward a government base on Saturday, the rebels said.

But Military spokesman Brig Sudhir Samarasinghe rejected any suggestion that the military was involved, calling a report by a pro-rebel website that the military was harboring the attackers "rubbish."

"The Sri Lankan military never go to un-cleared areas," Samarasinghe said, referring the land under the control of the rebels in the northeast.

The rebels claim the military uses armed proxies to launch the attacks, which the military denies.

The reported fatality was the first since last months' peace talks in Geneva when the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam agreed to abide by the 2002 cease-fire and reiterated their commitment to the provision not to allow other armed groups to operate in their areas.

At least 10 rebels were on duty at the sentry point at the time of the attack that took place near Batticaloa, eastern Sri Lanka's main town, according to TamilNet, a pro-rebel Web site. The area has been a hotbed of violence.

"A Liberation Tigers cadre was killed when a heavily armed group of attackers ... launched an ambush," TamilNet said.

A gunfight "ensued for more than 10 minutes and the attackers withdrew towards Vavunathivu Sri Lanka Army base," TamilNet said. It was not immediately know if any of the attackers sustained injuries.

Scores of people have been killed in eastern Sri Lanka since senior Tiger leader Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan, also known as Karuna, left the group in 2004 with about 6,000 fighters.

The Tigers accuse the army of using the renegades to attack them, a charge the military denies.

The uprising was ruthlessly suppressed later by the main rebel group, but sympathy for the breakaway leader remains strong among some Tamils in the east.

The Tigers began fighting in 1983 for a separate homeland for minority ethnic Tamils in the country's north and east, claiming discrimination by the majority Sinhalese.

The conflict killed nearly 65,000 people before the 2002 ceasefire.

First Published: Mar 04, 2006 13:15 IST