Sri Lanka on alert after announcing end to truce

Police and security forces went on alert across Sri Lanka on Thursday, hours after the government announced its withdrawal from a tattered ceasefire with Tamil Tiger rebels, security officials said.

The already tight security in the capital was further strengthened one day after suspected Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels set off a roadside bomb that killed five and wounded 28.

“We have raised an alert, especially in Colombo — we have deployed more men,” the police officer said.

The government announced late on Wednesday it was formally pulling out of the Norwegian-brokered 2002 truce after months of escalating violence and a belief it now has the upper hand in the decades-old conflict.

“The Cabinet of ministers decided to pull out of the ceasefire,” presidential spokesperson Chandrapala Liyanage said. “The legal process will now kick in.”

Under the ceasefire that went into effect from February 23 2002, both the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers had the option to pull out after giving two weeks’ written notice to the Norwegian foreign minister.

The Defence Ministry said the government had also decided to formally end any negotiating process with the rebels, who want to carve out a separate Tamil state in the north and east of the ethnic Sinhalese-majority island.

“The government sees no point in having any attempt to come to a settlement with a terrorist outfit,” the ministry said, quoting its spokesperson, Keheliya Rambukwella.

Norway’s International Development Minister, Erik Solheim, a top peace broker, expressed “concern” and warned of more bloodshed.

“This comes on top of the increasingly frequent and brutal acts of violence perpetrated by both parties, and I am deeply concerned that the violence and hostilities will now escalate even further,” Solheim said in a statement.

There was no immediate reaction from the Tigers — although LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran had said in November that the peace process was a waste of time.

The truce had initially halted the daily death toll reported from the island, but both sides have been drifting back into all-out war since the collapse of talks in October 2006. — AFP

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