V.S. Sambandan

Colombo blames LTTE for spiralling violence in north-east

COLOMBO: At least 13 persons were killed and 40 others injured in a string of bombings and arson in Sri Lanka's eastern Trincomalee district on Wednesday. Police curfew has been clamped in the ethnically-mixed, sensitive eastern town. With Wednesday's killings, the death toll in the north-east since last week's spurt in violence rose to 35. Wednesday started on a bloody note when a police bus was trapped in a claymore mine set by LTTE cadres in the outskirts of Trincomalee town, the army said. At least two policemen were killed and two others injured in this blast.

Later on Wednesday afternoon, a powerful improvised explosive device (IED) set off by "the LTTE" outside a vegetable market killed at least five others, the Army said. This was followed by mob violence in which shops, including those belonging to Tamils and Muslims were torched, killing six others, preliminary reports from Trincomalee said.

Trincomalee has a near-equal mix of Sri Lanka's three main ethnicities Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims.

The security forces confirmed the death of a soldier in the IED explosion outside the market but said they had "no information" about the civilian deaths in the bombing. The 11 persons killed in the market bombing and the subsequent arson included a child, four women and six men, reports reaching Colombo said.

Attack condemned

India and the U.S. have condemned the recent escalation in violence. Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse on Wednesday evening discussed the present situation with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and over telephone.

The U.S. condemned the "recent terrorist attacks of the LTTE against the armed forces of Sri Lanka."

It called upon the LTTE to cease the violent attacks and to return to the ceasefire implementation talks.

"The U.S. commends the continued restraint of the Government in the face of these provocations," a statement by the U.S. embassy in Colombo said. Mr. Rajapakse on Wednesday deputed two Ministers and a group of officials to inquire into the Trincomalee incidents and submit a report.

At a media briefing on Wednesday, senior Cabinet Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said the recent incidents were a "manifestation of the thinking of the LTTE and a clear indication that they reject" the call by the international community to abandon violence.