Colombo, Aug. 17 (Reuters): Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger rebels launched a new attack on the besieged northern Jaffna peninsula, the army said today, as a senior US diplomat met President Mahinda Rajapaske to press for an immediate halt to the fighting.
“The current situation is a threatening one,” principal deputy assistant secretary of state Steven Mann told reporters after his meeting. “The US, therefore, calls for the immediate cessation of hostilities.”
Mann also demanded the Tamil Tigers, on the official US list of foreign terrorist organisations and thus off-limits to direct contact with American diplomats, halt the violence. “The spotlight as well is on the LTTE.”
The Lanka military said the Tigers had attacked with assault boats and infantry but had been repulsed and more than 100 rebels had been killed. There is no access to the area and phone lines are down. International truce monitors say it is likely hundreds of civilians have been killed so far this month in the worst violence since a 2002 ceasefire.
Analysts say that ceasefire appears dead and that a civil war that has already killed more than 65,000 has resumed. The LTTE are fighting for a separate homeland for minority Tamils.
“If there is no success ... getting the two parties back to the ceasefire, we will see a long military struggle where, as is usual in this island, no one will win,” the chief truce monitor, retired Swedish Major General Ulf Henricsson, said at his Colombo headquarters.
The military said 106 of its soldiers had died in battle in the past week in Jaffna. Even before the current fighting, the area had been devastated by two decades of war, the flat landscape dominated by the burnt trunks of shelled palm trees, destroyed buildings and small red minefield marker signs.
The rising violence in recent days, including a suspected Tiger blast in the capital on Monday that killed seven, is scaring away tourists.
More than 800 people had died this year even before ground fighting began in the northeastern district of Trincomalee in late July after rebels shut a canal sluice gate, cutting off water supplies to farms in government areas.