Six killed as UN envoy visits Sri Lanka

Aug 7, 2007 (AFP) – Sri Lankan troops killed six suspected Tamil Tiger rebels in overnight clashes in the north of the country ahead of a visit by a top UN rights envoy to the embattled region on Tuesday, officials said. Sri Lankan troops on foot patrol opened fire at the suspected rebels, killing six and wounding several others in Vavuniya, 260 kilometres (160 miles) north of the capital, the defence ministry said.

The ministry made no mention of casualties among government soldiers. There was also no immediate comment from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who are fighting for a separate state.

The killings came as John Holmes, UN undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, was to tour the northern district of Jaffna.

Holmes met top Sri Lankan officials including the defence secretary on Monday to discuss the worsening ethnic conflict, which has left more than 60,000 dead since 1972, and the plight of civilians caught in the crossfire.

He was due to travel to the eastern district of Batticaloa on Wednesday before returning for talks with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse on Thursday, officials said.

On Monday, Holmes attended a remembrance c