Thursday, July 05, 2007

Sri Lanka Tigers honour 322 suicide bombers

Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels on Thursday commemorated the 20th anniversary of their first-ever suicide bombing by honouring 322 fighters who have staged such deadly attacks.

The suicide attacks by the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) started when a guerrilla known as Captain Miller drove a truck bomb into soldiers killing 40 on the Jaffna peninsula on July 5, 1987.

The pro-rebel website said 322 members of the elite "Black Tiger" suicide squads had perished in attacks since then and that the group had deployed 61 suicide bombers in the past year alone. said 241 of the suicide bombers were killed in sea-going attacks while the others died in land-based blasts.

The guerrillas held Hindu religious services in rebel-held territory Thursday to invoke blessings on the Black Tigers, regarded by Tiger chief Velupillai Prabhakaran, 52, as the group's protective armour.

The deadliest Black Tiger attack occurred last October 16 when Tigers drove a truck bomb into a transit point where 350 sailors were waiting to board buses in north-central Sri Lanka. At least 116 of them were killed.

Sri Lanka troops and police stepped up their already tight security arrangements in the run-up to the Black Tiger anniversary which comes amid an upsurge of fighting in the tropical island that began in late 2005.

"Measures are underway to heighten our alert during the Black Tiger week," police spokesman Senior Deputy Inspector General Jayantha Wickramaratne said. "We are taking all measures to eliminate the risk of terrorist attacks."

"We are also seeking public cooperation for information regarding suspicious activity in their neighbourhoods."

The Tamil Tigers are fighting for an independent homeland for the minority ethnic Tamils on the majority Sinhalese island. The 35-year-old conflict has claimed more than 60,000 lives.


Sri Lankan soldiers search a vehicle near Independence Square in Colombo.

Sri Lankan soldiers search a vehicle near Independence Square in Colombo. At least three people were killed in fresh violence in Sri Lanka as the Tamil Tigers commemorated 322 suicide bombers who have blown themselves up in the past 20 years.(AFP/Sanka Vidanagama)

Sri Lanka says Red Cross killers in rebel area

Sri Lankan police have identified suspects in the abduction and murder of two minority Tamil Red Cross volunteers, but they have fled into terrain controlled by Tamil Tiger rebels, the government said on Wednesday.

The corpses of the two men were found a month ago dumped southeast of Colombo, two days after they were taken away by men who identified themselves as police at a train station near a high security zone in the capital.

The killings came amid a spree of abductions and murders blamed on both sides amid renewed civil war between the state and Tamil Tigers.

"The police have been able to identify the suspects who are involved in the killing of the Red Cross's two members," government minister and defence spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella told a news briefing.

"Unfortunately they have identified them but they are not in areas where the police could move in at present ... They have gone into either Vanni or Kilinochchi," he added, referring to a swathe of northern Sri Lanka controlled by the Tigers.

He did not accuse the Tigers of killing the men, nor did he identify the suspects.

The separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam were not immediately available for comment.

The Red Cross said it was news to them.

"We should be at least informed," said Sri Lanka Red Cross Director General Neville Nanayakkara. "It was in our presence that His Excellency the President instructed the Inspector General of Police to do an investigation and find the culprits within two weeks."

Rights groups have reported hundreds of abductions and disappearances in recent months after the military and separatist Tigers resumed a two-decade civil war in which nearly 70,000 people have been killed since 1983.

Sri Lankan police have arrested 16 people, including four policemen and a member of the air force, in connection with a rash of abductions and extortion, the military said on Wednesday.

Nordic truce monitors suspect military elements were behind the execution-style murder of 17 local staff of aid agency Action Contre la Faim in the island's east last year, the worst attack against humanitarian workers since the 2003 bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad.