Blood-splattered start to Sri Lanka polls

Presidential elections got underway in Sri Lanka Thursday as officials feared overnight violence that killed at least six people could scare away voters in embattled regions. Presidential elections got underway in Sri Lanka Thursday as officials feared overnight violence that killed at least six people could scare away voters in embattled regions. Police and security forces kept up a red alert across the island as voting opened at 7.00 a.m. (0100 GMT) to elect Sri Lanka’s fifth executive head of state.

Private poll monitors reported that the five-week-long campaign was relatively peaceful with no major incidents, but police said at least six people were killed on the eve of the poll.

The violence in the volatile eastern province came despite a truce that is in place since February 2002. More than 60,000 people have been killed in the island’s Tamil separatist conflict between 1972 and 2002.

Tiger rebels are not supporting any candidate, but they are seen as eventually selecting a Sri Lankan leader by influencing minority Tamil voters who have emerged potential kingmakers.

Muslims, who are the island’s second largest minority after Tamils, are largely vo