Norway launches new peace bid as Sri Lankan fighting spreads

Aug 3, 2006 (AFP) – Fighting between Sri Lankan troops and Tamil Tiger rebels for control of a vital waterway spread Thursday, as peace broker Norway launched a fresh bid to prevent a return to full-scale war.

Local officials said troops had not managed to reopen the sluice gates as the area is heavily mined. The rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) opened up a new front by firing mortar bombs at military camps in Mannar district, about 150 kilometres (93 miles) from the northeastern Trincomalee district where heavy fighting has been raging since Wednesday last week, an official said.

“Mortars are being directed at Mannar, but security forces have retaliated to neutralise these attacks,” a military official here said. “We believe these are diversionary tactics.”

Sporadic shelling continued overnight in the Muttur area of Trincomalee where troops on Wednesday claimed to have killed at least 40 guerrillas for the loss of five of their men and two civilians.

Troop reinforcements had been moved to Muttur and were conducting “mopping up” operations in the area where some 6,000 families had reportedly left their homes and sought shelter in public buildings for safety, officials said.