Troops searched for Tamil Tiger rebels and claymore mines in military-held areas in Sri Lanka yesterday as the toll from a deadly ambush that raised fears of a return to civil war rose to 12.
Tuesday's attack in the island's far north, which killed 10 soldiers on the spot and claimed the lives overnight of two others, was one of the deadliest incidents since a 2002 ceasefire and the second such attack in less than a week.
"We are conducting search operations in the north and the east," said military spokesman Prasad Samarasinghe.
In a separate incident overnight in the eastern district of Trincomalee, a soldier was shot dead in his home by suspected rebels.
Tuesday's attack was the latest in a string of ambushes on the military and the assassination of a pro-rebel member of parliament at a Christmas mass that are straining a 2002 truce. Those in turn came after 13 sailors were killed in an ambush by suspected Tigers in the island's northwest.
Sri Lanka's stock market fell nearly 7 percent on Tuesday as news of the attacks prompted small investors to sell their shares and kept bigger investors waiting to see if the US$20 billion economy was heading back to war.
The government has appealed to the island's main donors - Japan, the United States, Norway and the European Union - to make good on a warning to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam that continued attacks would bring serious consequences.
"The LTTE has shown complete contempt to the diplomatic efforts made by the co-chair countries," the government said in a statement issued overnight.
The northern Jaffna peninsula, which is held by the military and which the Tigers want to control, remained tense.
British demining organization the Halo Trust said on Tuesday armed men overpowered guards at their Jaffna compound and stole two four-wheel-drive vehicles. Ceasefire monitors have stopped patrols in the northern Jaffna peninsula because of the deteriorating security situation, and have voiced deep concern about the future of the ceasefire.