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Tamil rebels attack military camp in Vavuniya

The bomb targeted a military foot patrol in the northern Vavuniya, the last Govt-held town ahead of territory control by the Tigers.

india Updated: Jan 04, 2007 11:28 IST

A roadside bomb killed one government soldier and wounded two on Thursday in northern Sri Lanka, the military said, after Tamil rebels warned of repercussions for an air force attack that allegedly killed 16 civilians in a fishing village.

The bomb targeted a military foot patrol in the northern town of Vavuniya, the last government-held town ahead of territory control by the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels, said military spokesman Brig Prasad Samarasinghe.

"We have confirmation that one soldier has died and two are wounded," Samarasinghe said.

On Wednesday, rebels fired mortars and rocket-propelled grenades at a military camp in northwest Sri Lanka, wounding one soldier, Samarasinghe said, adding that the troops returned fire with mortars but did not know of any rebel casualties.

The Defence Ministry has denied that civilians were struck in Tuesday's airstrike, saying that a guerrilla base in Mannar was targeted, and have accused the rebels of spreading false allegations about the attack to discredit the security forces and win international sympathy.

The rebels said the airstrikes struck a fishing village, and senior rebel official Seevaratnam Puleedevan on Wednesday said the death toll rose to 16 after two children succumbed to their injuries.

"We condemn this brutal attack and we warn the Sri Lanka state of serious repercussions," Puleedevan said by telephone from northern Kilinochchi. "It will be a serious."

The Tamil Tigers -- who have been fighting since 1983 for a separate homeland for the country's 3.1 million ethnic Tamils -- released photos of what they said were victims of the bombing arriving at a hospital.

In one, a child was shown with blood on his face, appearing to writhe in pain.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs also expressed concern over civilian deaths in the air raid.

In a web statement, the office urged both sides to take measures to protect civilians, adding the UN had "too often seen them fall short in this duty."

A Norwegian-brokered 2002 ceasefire has all but disintegrated: more than 3,600 fighters and civilians were killed in renewed fighting in 2006.

However, the ceasefire still officially holds. Before the ceasefire, the conflict claimed the lives of about 65,000 people and displaced another 1.6 million.

First Published: Jan 04, 2007 11:28 IST