Sri Lanka accuses rebels of targeting civilians

Apr.13 (AFP) – Tamil Tiger rebels have begun targeting civilians with a bomb attack on a crowded market that killed 17 people, the Sri Lankan government charged Thursday in a fresh battering for peace hopes. Government spokesman Rohitha Bogollegama said the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) hit the main vegetable market in Trincomalee on Wednesday to inflict maximum civilian losses and provoke a backlash.

“With peace talks on the cards, you see violence, an escalation of violence and violence directed against civilians,” said Bogollegama, who is also a government peace negotiator.

He said the government believed that the LTTE had resumed large-scale targeting of civilians after a near six-year break, but Colombo remained keen to negotiate with the guerrillas.

“This (attack in Trincomalee) shows a great desperation on the part of the LTTE to direct violence against civilians,” he told reporters.

“We are very concerned and taking all steps to ensure the safety and security of all communities.”

Government minister Keheliya Rambukwella said the Tigers were trying to provoke a backlash against minority Tamils by killing members of the majority Sinhalese community.

“The idea of