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Tamil Tigers train civilians for combat

Tamil Tigers train civilians for combat

Tamil Tigers are training civilians for combat as Sri Lanka slides toward war, report says.

Colombo: Tamil Tiger rebels have trained 6,000 civilians in armed combat, a pro-rebel report said, indicating the insurgents are preparing for all-out war with Sri Lankan military forces.

Separately, a journalist who covered defense issues was shot dead near the capital on Sunday, a rights group said, and the rebels accused the army of throwing a fisherman into the sea and drowning him, the Tiger's Web site said.

The word of the civilian military training comes as a 2002 ceasefire between the Sri Lanka government and Tamil rebels rapidly deteriorates, with rising violence killing more than 700 people since April.

''We are forced to strengthen ourselves, with the support of Tamil people under the leadership and guidance of our national leader, to move the liberation struggle vigorously forward,'' the pro-Tiger Web site TamilNet quoted senior rebel S Elilan as saying at a parade on Friday marking completion of the civilians' training in the northeast.

The Sri Lankan government ''has shown its unwillingness to respect the legitimate rights of Tamil people,'' the site quoted Elilan as saying.

Meanwhile, the body of freelance writer Sampath Lakmal, 24, was found in a suburb 10 kilometers (six miles) south of the capital, Colombo, said Sunanda Deshapriya of the Free Media Movement.

Lakmal left his home after receiving two telephone calls early Sunday, his family said. Police later found his body.

Lakmal wrote for local newspapers and worked for a radio station, mainly covering the government-rebel conflict, Deshapriya said.

The motive for the killing was not immediately known, he said.

The Tamil Tigers' official Web site on Sunday accused the army of assaulting some local fishermen and drowning one of them by throwing him into the sea near the northwestern fishing village of Pesalai the day before. The army denied the allegations.

In another incident, two Sri Lankan soldiers suffered minor injuries Saturday night when they were fired upon by suspected rebels near Welioya, a village 255 kilometers (160 kilometers) northeast of Colombo, the Sri Lankan capital, the army said in a statement.

The soldiers retaliated with small arms and heavy weapons fire, it said.

The Tigers have been fighting since 1983 for a separate homeland for minority ethnic Tamils on this tropical island off India's southern tip, claiming discrimination by the majority Sinhalese. More than 65,000 people died in the conflict.

A 2002 cease-fire halted fighting. But peace talks broke down, and subsequently rising violence has killed more than 700 people since April, threatening a return to full war.

first published:July 03, 2006, 12:26 IST