Seven villagers shot dead in Sri Lanka

COLOMBO, April 12, 2007 (AFP) – Suspected Tamil Tiger rebels Thursday shot dead seven villagers of the majority Sinhalese community in northern Sri Lanka on the eve of the traditional New Year, police said. Gunmen from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) raided the village of Avarantalawa in the district of Vavuniya where heavy fighting raged between troops and Tamil Tigers, police said.

Six women and a man were shot dead by the gunmen who escaped before constables reached the area, a police official said from Vavuniya, 260 kilometres (162 miles) north of here.

The attack came ahead of Saturday’s traditional New Year shared by the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamil communities. The attack came despite stepped-up security ahead of the New Year to guard against rebel attacks.

Police said Thursday’s victims had been driven out of their homes 24 years ago and had returned in 2002 following a truce between troops and Tamil Tigers.

However, the ceasefire is now observed only on paper with more than 4,000 people killed in escalating violence since December 2005. On Saturday, a roadside bomb attack killed eight people and wounded 25 in the troubled Vavuniya district. The military b