Tamil group threatens to expel Sri Lankan military from northeast

A group allied with Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels threatened Monday to force the military and "traitors" from the country's Tamil-dominated northeast if violence continues against the ethnic group there. The statement from the Trincomalee Tamil Peoples Consortium followed a weekend of violence during which a Muslim mob beat two Tamil men to death in the northeastern city of Trincomalee.

"The day when paramilitaries and traitors must run away from our land is not very far," the group said in its statement, carried on the rebels' official Web site. "When the anger of the Tamil people at these lowly acts bursts out, we warn that the traitors will be forced to run with the Sri Lankan military from our land."

Violence flared Saturday in Trincomalee, about 230 kilometers (140 miles) northeast of Colombo, when two Tamil men assaulted a Muslim resident, seriously injuring him. Rumors circulated that he had died, prompting a mob of Muslims to attack and kill two Tamil men. Most of Sri Lanka's Tamil people are Hindu.

Trincomalee falls mainly under government control, although the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam control pockets of territory in the largely Tamil area.

In its statement the pro-rebel group said Saturday's violence reflected a "continuing shadow war carried out by the Sri Lankan military and paramilitaries that work with them," but that rebel supporters would not be cowed.

"They must be assuming that we can be frightened by making us think that if we work with the LTTE we will be punished with death," it said.

Military spokesman Brig. Nalin Witharanagee's office said he couldn't immediately comment on the statement because he is attending a military parade. Meanwhile, rebel political leader C. Ilamparuthi planned to meet Monday with Maj. Gen. Sunil Tennakoon, the military's top general in northern Jaffna Peninsula, to discuss "the deteriorating situation" there, according to the pro-rebel Web site, TamilNet.

The meeting, which will also be attended by monitors overseeing the cease-fire, comes after the military blamed the Tamil Tigers for attacks that killed seven soldiers Sunday, the most serious violence since the two sides signed the truce three years ago.

Late last month, rebel leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran warned that the rebels will step up their struggle for an independent Tamil homeland next year if grievances with the government are not resolved. The Tigers began fighting in 1983, claiming discrimination by Sri Lanka's majority Sinhalese. About 65,000 people died in the conflict before a cease-fire was signed in 2002. Subsequent peace talks collapsed a year later, reports the AP. I.L.

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