Tigers accuse Lanka of killing Catholic priest

Colombo, April 20:

Sri Lankan forces today killed a Roman Catholic priest who was also a top human rights campaigner inside rebel-held territory, Tiger guerrillas said as fighting raged in the north.

The rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said Father MX Karunaratnam was killed in a roadside bomb attack carried out by government troops which infiltrated the Mallavi area. The priest headed the North East Secretariat on Human Rights, a group active in guerrilla-held Wanni region in the north of the island, the Tigers said in a statement.

It said a “deep penetrating unit” of the Sri Lankan army carried out the assassination, but there was no immediate word from the military. Security forces routinely deny carrying out attacks inside rebel-held territory.

However, troops are leading a major offensive to break through rebel defences in the Wanni in a bid to dismantle the de facto mini state of the guerrillas.

Earlier today, the defence ministry Sunday claimed its war planes bombed speed boats operated by Tamil Tiger rebels, but the guerrillas said only a village rebuilt after the December 2004 tsunami had been hit.

Aircraft carried out the bombing raid in the seas off Mullaitivu on Saturday evening after spy planes spotted the rebel boat formation, the defence ministry said in a statement.

“The air raid was successful,” the statement said without giving details. The LTTE said two civilians were wounded in the air attack.

“Many of the tsunami homes built with the assistance of the German Red Cross were damaged in this bombing,” the Tigers said in a statement.