Buddhist celebrations are not dimmed in Sri Lanka

In this Tamil rebel stronghold, hundreds of people stood in long lines over the weekend, stocking up on food and fuel and preparing for war.

Across much of the rest of Sri Lanka there were long lines too, lines of revelers taking part in riotous celebrations marking one of the year's most important Buddhist festivals.

Spiraling violence has rocked a shaky 2002 cease-fire between the Tamil Tiger rebels and the government, sparking fears the island nation could be plunged back into civil war.

While leaders on both sides traded accusations and threats of an imminent return to full-scale combat, the atmosphere in the streets of the two areas could not be more different.

In Kilinochchi, 275 kilometers (170 miles) north of the capital Colombo and at the heart of the swath of land the rebels control, most shops were shut Sunday and roads were deserted except for long lines at the town's only two operating fuel stations, where prices of gasoline and diesel have skyrocketed.

Others stocked up on food at the few stores that remained open.

"People are living in fear of aerial bombing. It is very pathetic," said Muthurasa, 32, a local resident who like many in the region goes by one name.

The Sri Lankan air force launched airstrikes on guerrilla-held territory Thursday after Tamil rebel suicide boats rammed and sank a navy patrol craft. The attack and subsequent sea battle killed dozens of people, reports the AP.

I.L.