LTTE faction owns up killing top leader


Colombo, February 11:

Even as the Sri Lankan government blamed splinter factions of the Tamil rebel movement for the slaying of a top guerrilla leader, a breakaway faction of the LTTE today claimed responsibility for the incident.

The Tamil National Force, led by a renegade commander who broke away from the main group last year, claimed responsibility in a statement posted on a Web site yesterday, the day the Tigers buried E Kausalyan, their most senior leader killed since 2002. The government also praised the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam for the ‘restraint’ it had shown since the killing.

Accusing ‘factions’ of the killing, the government said the splinter groups oppose a Norwegian-brokered ceasefire between the government and the Tigers. “There are factions working to sabotage the ceasefire agreement between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE),” government spokesman Mangala Samaraweera told reporters after a cabinet meeting. “It’s the work of those who want to see the ceasefire agreement come to an end. In a way, the ceasfire has been violated by such people.” A senior Tamil Tiger leader, E Koushalyan, a former Tamil legislator and four other rebels were gunned down on Monday in the eastern Batticaloa district in a government-controlled area.

The guerrillas had blamed paramilitary forces backed by the government, saying the attackers wore military uniforms. They warned the killings could disrupt post-tsunami reconstruction and peace talks. The government has denied involvement and condemned the killings. Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan parliament today extended by a month a state of emergency in tsunami-hit areas to give wide powers to security forces to carry out relief operations, officials said. The emergency was declared by President Chandrika Kumaratunga early January to deal with the immediate aftermath of the December 26 tsunamis which killed nearly 31,000 people in the country and left a million people homeless. “The emergency is to deal with relief operations and is limited to coastal districts,” Public Security Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake said as the parliament extended the tough laws by a month, the maximum period allowed by the constitution.