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LTTE-held areas bombed by air force

The action comes hours after a suicide bomber attacked the Lankan Army HQ in Colombo, reports PK Balachandran.
By PK Balachandran | None, Colombo
UPDATED ON APR 26, 2006 07:16 PM IST

The Sri Lankan Air Force, Navy and Army shelled the LTTE-controlled area of Sampur in East Sri Lanka on Tuesday, official sources told Hindustan Times.

The Director General of the Government Peace Secretariat, Dr Palitha Kohona, said that the Sri Lankan Security Forces had "retaliated" after the LTTE shelled the Trincomalee naval base.

It was a "deterrent" to further attacks by the LTTE, he said.

Sources in Trincomalee said that Israeli-made Kfir fighter-bombers bombed the Sampur area near Trincomalee in five sorties between 5.45 pm to 6.25 pm.

At 6.35 pm, the Army began shelling the area. A naval gunboat also joined in the shelling, the sources said.

Altogether 96 shells were lobbed.

Curfew had been imposed on Trincomalee town at 4 pm.

North-South road closed 

Meanwhile, the LTTE and the Sri Lankan armed forces closed the only road between Vavuniya and Jaffna, called Alpha 9.

Jaffna is thus effectively cut off from the Sri Lankan south.

Alpha 9 passes through LTTE controlled territory known as the Wanni. The LTTE  headquarters, Kilinochchi, lies here.

Retaliation for attempt on Army chief's life?

Earlier in the day, an LTTE suicide bomber attacked the Sri Lankan Army Commander, Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka, at the Army Headquarters in Colombo, injuring him critically.

The aerial, naval and ground shelling in East Sri Lanka later in the evening might have been a retaliation for the attempt on Gen Fonseka's life, political observers said.

Trincomalee, Colombo calm

Despite the assassination attempt and the subsequent bombardment, signally a return to war, Trincomalee town and Colombo, were calm.

"The three communities (Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim) have decided to live together," a Trincomalee resident said over the phone.

Trincomalee had seen a bomb blast and Sinhala-Tamil rioting for several days from April 12 onwards.

Govt appeals for calm

Meanwhile, President Mahinda Rajapaksa appealed to Sri Lankans to be calm. A government statement asked the people of Sri Lanka to "exercise maximum  restraint, and not to fall prey to the LTTE ploy of provoking a backlash."

The statement said that the government had stepped up security and "taken all effective measures to maintain law and order in all parts of the country especially in Trincomalee where a public market place had come under an LTTE terror attack recently."

Troops poured into the streets of Colombo to give the people a sense of security.

Truce monitors ask govt not to retaliate

Meanwhile, the Scandinavian-staffed Sri Lanka (Truce) Monitoring Mission (SLMM) condemned the attempt on the life of Gen Fonseka but asked the government not to retaliate.

"This attack is yet another serious blow to the Ceasefire Agreement and the Peace Process. It is likely to have very negative effects on the relationship between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and could jeopardise any possibility of future talks," the statement said.

The SLMM, however, refrained from identifying the group to which the suicide bomber belonged, saying that it did not have enough material to do so at this juncture.

"The Government armed forces have suffered countless attacks in the last few weeks but have shown restraint and refrained from massive retaliation," the SLMM said.

"We sincerely urge the Sri Lankan Government to equally refrain from any retaliatory actions at this stage and remain committed to the Peace Process," the truce monitors said.

"Almost 300 people have died  in attacks and violence this year."

"More than 150 of those were civilians," the statement said.

Co-chairs condemn attempt on General's life

Earlier, the Co-Chairs of the Tokyo Development Conference, namely, the US, EU, Japan and Norway, who are the "international community" in the Sri Lankan peace process, said in a statement that they condemned the assassination attempt "absolutely".

The Co-Chairs, unlike the SLMM, were not chary about identifying the perpetrator of the crime. They identified the LTTE as the perpetrator.

"The Co-Chairs call on the LTTE to cease all suicide attacks and other forms of violence," the statement said.

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