3 killed in east Lanka ahead of PM’s visit

Colombo, October 1:

Gunmen fatally shot two ethnic Tamils and a Sinhalese man in separate attacks in Sri Lanka’s volatile east, hours before a planned visit today by presidential candidate and current Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse, police said. The Tamil men, both aged 23, were shot dead by unidentified gunmen just before midnight in Valaichchenai village, 220 km east of the capital, Colombo, said Rohan Abeywardene, the region’s top police chief.

Around six hours later, an ice-cream seller, belonging to the Sinhalese majority was shot dead in the neighbouring eastern district of Ampara. The fresh outbreak of violence came as Rajapakse prepared to travel to the coastal village of Oluvil to address an election rally. Security has been bolstered by special anti-terrorist commandos and the police ahead of his visit, Abeywardene said.

He said while the violence is unlikely to have an impact on the premier’s visit, “we are not taking any chances.” Rajapakse will contest presidential elections expected on November 17. Authorities suspect the latest violence was linked to feud between militant groups. The split in the Tamil Tiger rebels in March 2004, sparked internecine clashes that have killed scores, mainly in Sri Lanka’s east. In recent months, the fighting has spilled over into the capital.