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Sri Lankan air force pound rebel positions in north; bomb discovered in capital

Sri Lankan air force pound rebel positions in north; bomb discovered in capital

Sri Lanka's air force bombed Tamil Tiger rebels' mortar positions in the embattled north on Wednesday, a day after the insurgents agreed to peace talks with the government but warned that further military action would see them pull out of a shaky four-year-old cease-fire.
Separately, police in the capital, Colombo, discovered a powerful bomb in a garbage dump that was apparently being stored for future use, the military said.
"We took three airstrikes, this morning, to destroy their (Tamil rebel) mortar positions," said military spokesman Brig. Prasad Samarasinghe.
He said insurgents were firing mortars toward government troops in the Pallai and Pooneryn areas of the northern Jaffna peninsula and that airstrikes were required to neutralize those attacks.
Although the damage is exactly not known, "the pilots have seen mortar positions caught in fire," Samarasinghe said.
Separately, suspected rebels exploded a road side bomb fixed to a bicycle in Jaffna injuring two soldiers and three civilians, the Defense Ministry said.
Also on Wednesday, Tamil Tigers attacked an army camp in Vavunathivu in the eastern Batticaloa district and troops repulsed the attack with mortars and artillery, said Samarasinghe. No casualties were reported.
The violence came just hours after the rebels told a Norwegian peace-broker that they would meet with the government, unconditionally. The last round of peace talks aiming to end two decades of civil war were held in February.
However, the rebels warned that further government military action would see them withdraw altogether from a 2002 cease-fire accord.
It wasn't immediately clear how the military's airstrikes would affect the rebels' offer for talks. Tiger officials were not immediately available for comment.
The Norway-brokered cease-fire temporarily ended Sri Lanka's 19-year civil war between the government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam who want to carve out a separate homeland for the country's ethnic Tamil minority, citing decades of discrimination by the majority Sinhalese. About 65,000 people were killed in the conflict before the truce.
Renewed fighting since late July, however, has left at least 1,000 combatants and civilians dead, even though both sides say they are still honoring the truce.
The homemade bomb, weighing about 15 kilograms (33 pounds), found in Colombo, was not set to explode, Samarasinghe said.
He said a resident had spotted the device and informed police at a nearby checkpoint.
It was not clear who hid the bomb, but separatist Tamil Tiger rebels have been accused of a series of roadside explosions that have killed scores of government troops and civilians since December.
On Wednesday nearly 5,000 protesters marched along the main roads in Colombo protesting against what they called "foreign intervention" in solving the country's ethnic conflict.
The protest was led by trade union and student wings of the Marxist People's Liberation Front which opposes power sharing as a solution to Sri Lanka's long-drawn conflict. The party holds 39 seats in the 225-member Parliament.
Shouting slogans against the Norway-led efforts to solve Sri Lanka's ethnic conflict, protesters carried placards which read "Say no to Norway, Hands off Sri Lanka."
"We are against efforts by the so-called international forces to break up the country. Today, Tamil Tigers have been weakened and these forces want to strengthen them," said Anura Dissanayake a party lawmaker.
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Associated Press writer Krishan Francis contributed to this report


Updated : 2021-06-20 21:59 GMT+08:00