Sri Lanka editor says torching of press is cowardly

COLOMBO, Nov 21, 2007 (AFP) – Unidentified gunmen stormed a pro-opposition newspaper office in Sri Lanka on Wednesday and set fire to the printing presses, police said. More than a dozen armed men started the blaze after breaking into the Sunday Leader newspaper building — which is within a high-security air force complex on the edge of the capital Colombo — and forced the staff out, police said.

The paper’s chief editor, Lasantha Wickrematunga, accused the government of carrying out the attack. His newspaper has been highly critical of the administration of President Mahinda Rajapakse.

“It is a cowardly attack within a high-security zone by a regime that is acting like a terrorist organisation,” Wickrematunga said. “What can you expect from a regime that is involved in human smuggling? We will prevail.”

His paper has also accused the government of providing a passport under a false name to a renegade Tamil Tiger guerrilla leader to enter Britain. The case has led to tension between Colombo and London.

A local rights group, the Free Media Movement (FMM), said it was outraged by the attack and hel