Mine blast kills airman in Sri Lanka

Sept 26, 2006 (AFP) – An airman was killed and another wounded in northern Sri Lanka on Tuesday when a mine blew up as they underwent routine physical training exercises, the defence ministry said. More than 60,000 people have died since the rebellion began in 1972. The Claymore mine exploded in the district of Vavuniya, the ministry said, blaming the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Suspected LTTE gunmen also shot dead a policeman Monday in the eastern district of Ampara, the ministry added.

The latest violence followed a major sea battle between the navy and Tamil Tiger rebels off the island’s northeastern coast.

The navy claimed to have killed 70 rebels while the guerrillas admitted losing only three men.

The bloodshed continues amid renewed efforts by peace broker Norway to arrange peace talks early next month in Oslo between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers.

Both sides agreed last week to try to salvage a truce in place since February 2002.

More than 1,500 people have died in an upsurge of tit-for-tat violence in the past 10 months.

Tamil rebels are fighting for a homeland in Sri Lanka, a majority Sinhalese nation.