2 suspected Tamil guerrillas killed in Sri Lanka

Two suspected Tamil Tiger rebels were killed and a police officer was injured Saturday in a shootout at a checkpoint in northern Sri Lanka, the military said. The rebels opened fire when police at the checkpoint in Vavuniya district tried to search them, military spokesman Brig. Athula Jayawardena said. "Police retaliated and killed two terrorists," Jayawardena said. One police officer was injured.

Independent verification of the incident in Vavuniya, 210 kilometers (130 miles) north of the capital, Colombo, was not possible. Violence has soared in northeastern Sri Lanka in recent months, putting a four-year-old truce under increasing strain.

At least 78 Sri Lankan security forces have been killed in violence blamed on Tamil rebels since Dec. 4. The guerrillas have repeatedly denied any involvement.

Erik Solheim, Norway's international development minister who played a key role in arranging the government-rebel cease-fire in 2002 is expected to visit Sri Lanka from Monday to meet leaders from both sides and try to jump start stalled peace talks.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam rebels have fought the government since 1983 to create a separate state for ethnic minority Tamils, alleging discrimination by the majority Sinhalese. The fighting killed over 65,000 people before the truce, reports the AP. N.U.