Suspected Tamil Tiger rebels detonated a mine in eastern Sri Lanka on Wednesday, killing two soldiers and wounding one, the military said, in continuing violence that threatens to push the island nation back into civil war. The mine exploded near soldiers patrolling on foot in a village bordering eastern Batticaloa district, 220 kilometers (140 miles) east of the capital, Colombo , military spokesman Brig. Prasad Samarasinghe said.
Also Wednesday, a Tamil civilian was shot and killed by unknown gunmen in the streets of the northern town of Jaffna , local residents who witnessed the shooting said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. He was identified as Selvarasa Sritharan, 35. The identity of the assailants or the motive for the shooting was not immediately known.
Some 65,000 people were killed in the conflict between the minority Tamils and the majority Sinhalese before a 2002 Norway-brokered cease-fire, which is now on the verge of collapse. The latest violence comes a day after a senior rebel official said that the guerrillas are ready for a resumption of war and a United States envoy encouraged European Union to list the rebels as terrorists.
Rebel leader Seevaratnam Puleedevan said Tuesday that surging hostilities have turned into a "low-intensity war" and his guerrillas are ready to fight if the war is thrust on them, blaming the government for targeting Tamil civilians. The government has denied the allegation.
Also, visiting U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Donald Camp said his country has encouraged the EU to recognize the Tamil Tigers as a terrorist group, saying the group is "very deserving of that label." Camp met government and Tamil leaders during his two-day visit, urging both sides to return to the peace process.
The violence has killed more than 180 people since the beginning of April according to figures compiled by The Associated Press, including government forces, rebels and civilians, many of them killed under shadowy circumstances, with each side blaming the other. Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam rebels have fought the government since 1983 to create a separate state for ethnic minority Tamils accusing majority Sinhalese of discrimination, reports the AP.
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