Heavily armed police and troops awoke Tamils staying in low-budget hostels early on Thursday morning, put them in overcrowded buses and sent them to a detention centre in Vavuniya, 260km to the north.

The owner of one of the guest houses told a local television station that troops even ordered a kidney-transplant patient to move despite protests that his life would be in danger if he was not treated.

The court's decision came after a complaint by political lobby group that the police raids constituted a violation of basic rights.

Ethnic hatred

International human-rights organisations complained that action had added to the already serious humanitarian crisis in the country and would increase ethnic hatred.
  
"Nothing could be more inflammatory in Sri Lanka's polarised climate than identifying people by ethnicity and kicking them out of the capital," Human Rights Watch said.

"Tamil Tiger crimes don't give the government the right to engage in collective punishment."

A claymore mine close to a police station
and a school in Colombo [AFP]
The crackdown came as Yasushi Akashi, Japan's peace envoy to Sri Lanka, visited the island in an attempt to restart the peace process.

Sri Lanka's defence ministry has insisted the evictions were necessary to prevent bomb attacks by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who have been fighting for separation from the island's Sinhalese-majority south since 1972.

The decision was announced as Sri Lankan police commandos found an explosive device in the capital, the defence ministry said.

A claymore mine wrapped in a sleeping mat was found a few metres from a police station and a school, it said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan military said that nine bodies were found dumped in the northwest of the country.

The bodies were found by police near Wennapuwa town some 50km north of the capital, Colombo, according to Lieutenant-Colonel Upali Rajapakse, a defence ministry official.

"When nine bodies are found together its obvious that they have been murdered, but we are still awaiting details."