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Tamil businessman shot dead in Sri Lanka

Ponniah Muruges, 45, was working at his shop in Vavuniya when armed men stormed and opened fire.
None | By Associated Press, Colombo
PUBLISHED ON MAR 25, 2006 05:29 PM IST

Suspected Tamil Tiger rebels shot dead an ethnic Tamil businessman in northern Sri Lanka after he refused their demands for money, the military said on Saturday. His assistant was also injured.

Ponniah Muruges, 45, was working at his shop in Vavuniya when armed men stormed in Friday night and opened fire, the military said on its website. Vavuniya is 210 kilometers north of the capital, Colombo.

The report quoted investigators as saying Muruges was killed because he refused to pay an unspecified amount of money to the Tamil Tigers.

However, pro-rebel Web site TamilNet blamed armed Tamil groups who oppose the rebels for killing Muruges for the same reason. Independent verification about the incident was not possible.

The killing came a month after government and Tamil Tiger officials met in Geneva and agreed to scale down violence to save a four-year-old cease-fire that was on the verge of collapse.

A sudden escalation of violence since December has killed more than 160 people including 81 government security personnel. Several civilians and Tamil Tiger guerrillas have also been killed.

The rebels have demanded that the government disarm Tamil groups opposing the rebels, claiming they are being used by the government troops to wage a subversive war against the guerrillas.

Those Tamil groups were former separatist fighters who gave up the struggle in 1987 after a peace accord was signed between Sri Lanka and neighbouring India.

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam rebels have fought the government since 1983 to create a separate state for ethnic minority Tamils accusing the majority Sinhalese-dominated state of discrimination.

More than 65,000 people were killed in the fighting before a Norway brokered cease-fire was signed in 2002.

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