3 murdered and 2 wounded in Sri Lanka

Gunman raided the home of a Tamil family that supports the Tamil Tiger rebels in the North of Sri Lanka, deadly shooting three civilian women and injuring two men, a pro-rebel Web-site and police said Monday. Separately, suspected Tiger rebels hurled a grenade at an air force checkpoint, wounding an airman, military officials said, as rising violence threatened to plunge Sri Lanka back into civil war.

In two other attacks in the northeast on Monday, three men were killed, said police spokesman Rienzie Perera. The identities of the victims or the motive behind the slayings were not immediately known.

In the aggression on the family, the Tamil Web site blamed intelligence operatives working for the Sri Lankan military and a pro-government Tamil group for the slayings late Sunday. It said the victims belonged to a "Great Hero" family, a title given to families who have helped the rebel cause.

One of the victims, 30-year-old actress Bojan Renuka, played a leading role in a rebel propaganda movie about the guerrillas armed campaign for a homeland for the country's ethnic Tamil minority, the Web site said.

Military spokesman Brig. Athula Jayawardane said he heard about the report, but denied that the military was involved.

"We have received reports that the three women were killed by gunfire when they were asleep," Perera said, declining to elaborate on the motive or identity of the victims. Police were investigating.

The Tamil Web site said that the sister of the actress, Bojan Shanuka, 23, and their mother, Bojan Arthanageswary, 51, died at the scene. The father, Bojan Nagendran, 55, and brother Bojan Ullasan, 26, sustained gunshot wounds and were being treated at Jaffna Teaching Hospital, TamilNet said.

At least 74 Sri Lankan security forces have died since December 4 in a mounting spate of attacks that the government has blamed on the Tigers, who deny responsibility.

The Tigers in 1983 launched an armed campaign for a separate homeland in the northeast for ethnic minority Tamils, claiming discrimination by the majority Sinhalese.

A Norway-brokered cease-fire halted the war in 2002, but subsequent peace talks broke down in disagreement over rebel demands for autonomy in the Tamil-majority northeast.

The attacks in recent weeks have sparked fears that the truce could collapse and the island nation may return to full-blown war. Meanwhile, troops on Monday found two anti-personnel Claymore mines in the northern area of Jaffna along a route used by government military forces, the Defense Ministry said.

Jaffna Peninsula is the traditional homeland of the country's 3.2 million Tamils.

The military has said that Claymores remotely detonated, above-ground anti-personnel mines designed to fire hundreds of steel balls appear to be the most favored weapons of the rebels the AP reports.

D.M.