Militant Tamil students attack police jeep in Jaffna

Militant Tamil youths attacked a Sri Lankan police jeep with clubs, chains and stones in the northern city of Jaffna on Tuesday, injuring at least two policemen, the Defense Ministry said. The incident on Tuesday, in Jaffna, 300 kilometers (186 miles) north of Colombo, followed a military crackdown on a students' demonstration Monday, when soldiers fired into the air to disperse protesters who were demanding that Sri Lanka's army withdraw from the Tamil-majority region.

"A group of people, who called themselves students, surrounded and attacked the jeep near the university campus," said military spokesman Brig. Nalin Witharanage.

In Colombo, meanwhile, parliament deputies from the rebels' proxy party, Tamil National Alliance, briefly held up the session demanding that Sri Lanka withdraw all its military from Jaffna Peninsula, a core demand of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which has in the past fought for an independent homeland for the country's 3.2 million ethnic Tamil minority.

The TNA deputies forced the Parliament's session to be suspended for five minutes after they raised their demand. The TNA is not directly linked with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, but it meets LTTE leaders and gets guidance and is seen as a proxy party. Sri Lanka's 2002 truce with the rebels has come under serious strain after top LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran warned on Nov. 27 that the Tigers would step up their struggle for an independent Tamil homeland next year if the government does not address their grievances.

Newly elected President Mahinda Rajapakse says his government is prepared to do so, but not at the cost of dividing Sri Lanka along ethnic lines.

Since Dec. 4, at least 18 government soldiers have died in attacks blamed on the rebels. A Norwegian delegation is expected to visit Sri Lanka in the coming weeks to explore the possibility of resuming peace talks, which stalled in 2003 over rebel demands for wide-ranging autonomy, reports the AP. I.L.

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