Tamil Tiger rebels said Sri Lankan government fighter jets killed five civilians in an air raid on their northern stronghold on Friday.
Fighting between the military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam has intensified since the government formally pulled out of a six-year-old ceasefire pact in January, though a renewed war has been raging since 2006.
The air force said it had bombed and destroyed an isolated rebel boat yard in the village of Kiranchi, west of the Tigers’ de facto capital of Kilinochchi, on Friday morning. It declined to comment on the Tiger assertion.
”Five civilians were killed and seven more were injured, two of them critically, when Sri Lanka bombed a coastal civilian settlement in the Kiranchi area,” the Tigers’ Peace Secretariat said in an email.
The Tigers were not immediately available for comment.
As with a Defence Ministry claim that troops killed 92 rebels in a northern offensive earlier this week and tolls from countless clashes in recent months, there was no independent confirmation of what happened or how many people were killed.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government argues the Tigers used the truce to re-arm and were not sincere about talking peace. It has vowed to crush them militarily, and has captured large swathes of rebel-held territory in the east.
But analysts say neither side is winning, with the Tigers regularly hitting back with suicide attacks and roadside bombs.
The violence hurt tourist arrivals last year, which fell 12% from a year earlier, while the stock market slid nearly 7% in 2007, with some businesses shelving investment plans.
The latest fighting came as United Nations assistant secretary general for political affairs Angela Kane visited the Indian Ocean island nation to assess world the body’s operations for Secretary General Ban ki-Moon.
It also came a day after United States-based Human Rights Watch called on the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on the Tigers and a splinter faction seen as allied to the government for using children as soldiers.
Human Rights Watch also called on the Security Council to publicly condemn the Sri Lankan government, saying it was failing to investigate cases of child abduction and recruitment in territory it controls.
It also wants the government reprimanded, accusing elements of the security forces of complicity in abduction of children by the splinter ”Karuna” faction, which analysts say helped the government to evict the Tigers from the east. – Reuters