April 10, 2006

Suspected Tiger attack kills 4 S.Lanka soldiers

By Peter Apps

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Suspected Tamil Tiger rebels killed
four Sri Lankan soldiers and wounded two in an ambush on
Monday, the army said, hours after international envoys visited
the rebels ahead of talks in Switzerland next week.

Violence has risen sharply in the past week and
international cease-fire monitors say they fear that the
upcoming talks -- seen as key to averting a return to the
island's two-decade civil war -- and even the 2002 truce could
be in jeopardy.

"It's a claymore attack," said army spokesman Brigadier
Prasad Samarasinghe, adding that the army suspected the rebels.
"Four soldiers are dead, two are wounded. They were patrolling
in a vehicle."

The attack is the worst on land since the two sides agreed
in January to hold their first direct talks since 2003. The
rebels and government are due to meet in Geneva between April
19 and 21 for the next round of discussions, but the rebels
have yet to say for certain if they will attend.

A string of suspected Tiger attacks in December and January
pushed the country to the brink of war. Tensions then fell with
the prospect of talks but neither side trusts the other and
peace broker Norway says neither has yet made good on its
first-round promises.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), de facto
rulers of a seventh of Sri Lanka who want a separate homeland
for the island's Tamil minority, have repeatedly threatened war
unless the government gives them concessions.


Ambassadors from Japan, the European Union and Norway had
visited the rebel capital earlier on Monday to meet the head of
the Tigers' political wing at their headquarters in

The rebels say the government is backing the Karuna group
of renegade ex-Tigers against them, and want them disarmed. The
government said in Geneva it would disarm armed groups, but now
denies any are operating in government-held areas despite
testimony to the contrary from cease-fire monitors.

Karuna's political wing, which says it wants to supplant
the mainstream rebels, opened its first office in the army-held
eastern town of Batticaloa on Monday. The army said a suspected
Tiger grenade exploded shortly afterwards 500 meters away, but
no one was hurt.

The Tigers blame Karuna and the army for a string of recent
attacks, including the murder of a pro-rebel politician in the
northeastern port of Trincomalee on Friday.