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Monday, July 03, 2006

Sri Lanka blasts kill 7, Indian official visits

COLOMBO, July 3 (Reuters) - Two suspected Tamil Tiger rebel blasts killed seven people in Sri Lanka's north and east on Monday as a former Northern Irish militant and a top Indian diplomat visited the island to discuss rising violence.

The army said a bomb ripped through a road junction in the northeastern port town of Trincomalee, killing five security personnel and a civilian. They blamed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who want a separate ethnic Tamil homeland.

"It was an explosion in a three-wheeler parked by a roadblock," said army spokesman Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe. "The police had tried to search the three-wheeler and it was detonated remotely."

Fourteen people were wounded, the army said. It was the worst attack on land since a suspected Tiger fragmentation mine attack on a civilian bus in mid-June killed 68 people and prompted government air strikes.

An army source said a mine blast on the northern Jaffna peninsula also killed one soldier and wounded another, while a spokesman said a similar attack in the east earlier in the day wounded two police Special Task Force troopers.

More than 700 people have been killed so far this year, raising fears a 2002 truce may collapse and civil war resume.

Army posts in the north and east are attacked almost every day, the military is accused of killing Tamil civilians and the United Nations say children are being abducted to fight. The government denies abuses, but truce monitors say they continue.

The Tigers also deny recent attacks and refuse to go to new peace talks despite repeated pleas from the government and international community. On Monday, former senior Irish Republican Army leader Martin McGuinness became the latest to visit their northern stronghold.


"I come from Ireland where we have a very successful peace process," pro-rebel Web site Tamilnet quoted him as saying. "I am very keen to share my experiences... not just with the leaders of the LTTE but also with Sri Lanka."

The official rebel Web site said McGuinness met Tiger political head S.P. Thamilselvan, talked about Northern Ireland's peace process and called for direct talks. But the rebels said they would not meet the government while killings of Tamil civilians continued.

Separately, officials said Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran was visiting the island to meet President Mahinda Rajapakse.

"There's a certain amount of discussion about India's exact position," a senior Sri Lankan official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. "I think India could be much more closely involved in the peace process."

The Indian High Commission refused to comment on the visit.

India has had a long and complex involvement in the island nation's ethnic troubles. New Delhi initially trained the LTTE but it sent in peacekeepers to enforce a peace pact with Colombo -- a move that backfired as the rebels and Indian troops became locked in a bloody conflict.

A suspected Tiger suicide bomber later killed former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Since then, India has stayed away from its southern neighbour's troubles, but has maintained close contact with Norwegian mediators who brokered the truce. (Additional reporting by Ranga Sirilal)
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