Attacks unlikely to hurt tourism -Govt Official

Apr. 26 (Dow Jones)–Attacks by Sri Lanka’s military on Tamil Tiger rebel bases in the northeast since late Tuesday are unlikely to hurt the country’s tourism industry, the secretary to the Ministry of Tourism said Wednesday. “These are targeted attacks, so we don’t expect it to affect tourist arrivals in anyway. The government is still committed toward the peace process,” Prathap Ramanujam told Dow Jones Newswires.

He said the government was sticking to its 2006 target of 600,000 arrivals, up 9% from 2005.

Sri Lanka’s air force struck rebel bases Wednesday in the east of the country after naval craft came under attack, and a pro-rebel Web site reported at least 12 people killed, threatening to return the country to civil war.

The government also closed the highway providing the only land link between Sri Lanka’s south and rebel-held areas in the north.

The attacks came after a suspected rebel suicide blast in the capital on Tuesday reportedly meant to assassinate a top military officer, who escaped with injuries.

Ramanujam said although tourists may avoid the volatile north and east, which were opened up after the government and rebels struck a ceasefire in 2002, “overall arrivals