Sri Lanka bombs Tamil bases

Sri Lankan fighter jets have bombed suspected Tamil Tiger bases in the north of the country, a day after 102 sailors were killed in a suicide attack on a military convoy.

    Weapons were removed from the scene of Monday's blast

    Air force jets hit Tiger sea bases in Mullaittivu and a military camp run by the rebels in Mankulam, the Media Centre for National Security said on Tuesday.

    The Tigers also said Sri Lankan jets bombed their "Voice of Tigers" radio transmitting tower, but insisted the station would not go off air.

    The Sri Lankan government said it would continue to retaliate following Monday's attack but said it would still attend peace talks due to be held in Geneva at the end of the month.

    "No, there is no rethink. The president has reaffirmed that we will go ahead with the talks whatever," said Palitha Kohona, head of the government's Peace Secretariat.

    "We will continue retaliating, taking action against them but we will go to the talks."
     
    Kohona said the atmosphere was unpleasant and expectations had to be realistic when two sides involved in a bloody, nearly quarter-century conflict were heading for negotiations.

    "Don't expect the world," he said. "But we hope something good will come of it."

    Rasiah Ilanthiraiyan, a Tamil Tiger military spokesman echoed Kohona's sentiments and said the group "remained committed to a negotiated settlement" to the civil war.

    The pro-rebel TamilNet Web site said the military also launched airstrikes in northeastern Sri Lanka on Monday night, but claimed they hit civilian targets that left two girls dead, and 15 others wounded.

    Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe, a military spokesman, said the air force bombed rebel territory after the rebels had launched artillery fire into a military camp.

    Weapons removed

    More than 2,300 people have been killed in spiralling violence  since December, leaving a truce agreed in February 2002 in tatters.

    Monday's attack, in which fighters detonated a truck packed with explosives next to a convoy of buses packed with sailors. was the island's worst suicide bombing.

    A government spokesman said the dead were unarmed sailors, reporting back from duty or about to go on leave.

    But pictures taken at the site of the blast appeared to show rifles and other military equipment being removed from the scene.

    International concern over Sri Lanka's deteriorating security situation was led by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who described  Monday's suicide attack as "appalling".

    "The Secretary-General stresses once again that a return to civil war will not resolve the conflict," his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

    The US also condemned the attack

    called on both sides to cease violence, and show a renewed commitment to peace talks.

    More than 65,000 people have been killed since 1983 when the rebels began fighting for an independent Tamil homeland.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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