Sri Lanka on alert ahead of Tiger leader’s annual speech

COLOMBO, Nov 26 (AFP) – Sri Lankan security forces went on high alert Sunday, officials said, as Tamil Tiger rebels remembered 18,742 comrades killed in their decades-long campaign for a separate homeland. More than 3,400 people have been killed in an upsurge in violence in the past year in Sri Lanka, where over 60,000 have died since the LTTE launched its separatist campaign in 1972. Troops and the Tamil Tiger rebels exchanged mortar fire in the northern peninsula of Jaffna Saturday night, the defence ministry said, adding troops escaped a guerrilla mine attack in the island’s northwest.

There were no immediate reports of casualties on either side.

Already tight security in the capital Colombo was further stepped up, with several main roads closed and heavily armed troops and police deployed to carry out cordon-and-search operations, a police official said.

“This is a precautionary measure,” said the officer, asking not to be named. “We suspect that the Tigers could try to create some trouble.”

All vehicles entering the city were checked.

The measures come as the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) observe “Heroes’ Week” — from November 21-27 — in memory of the men and