Monday, January 30, 2006

Blast hits causeway in rebel-held area of northern Sri Lanka by DILIP GANGULY

An explosion rattled a strategic causeway in a rebel-held area of northern Sri Lanka - on Sunday, a police official said. There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage. Elephant Causeway, located 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of the capital, Colombo, was the scene of repeated battles during Sri Lanka - 's near two-decade civil war. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam drove government forces back along the isthmus in April 2000 to secure control of the only road along which trucks can travel to deliver supplies to the area.

The Tamil Tigers began fighting in 1983 for a Tamil homeland, claiming discrimination by the majority Sinhalese.

Sri Lankan security forces, meanwhile, came under attack twice this weekend in the Jaffna Peninsula, leaving one soldier wounded, according to the military.

The violence Saturday came despite an agreement between the government and Tamil rebels to cease all hostilities and prepare for a new round of peace talks, to be held next month in Switzerland.

The Defense Ministry blamed ``terrorists'' for the attacks, but did not single out the LTTE by name. The guerrilla group, fighting to carve out a separate homeland for Sri Lanka - 's 3.2 million Tamils, is banned in the United States and neighboring India as terrorist organization.

The rebel group didn't mention the attack on its peace secretariat Web site, instead accusing the military of harassment.

``(The) Sri Lankan army's harassment, cordon and search operations and intimidation against civilians still continues in the Jaffna Peninsula though the government of Sri Lanka - and the LTTE have agreed to hold talks,'' the statement said.