Sri Lanka on the brink after 67 killed in new violence

Aug 1, 2006 (AFP) – The truce between Sri Lanka’s warring parties was stretched to breaking point Tuesday after one of the bloodiest days in the island’s recent history left at least 67 soldiers and Tamil rebels dead. The Tamil Tigers have been waging a violent secessionist campaign since the 1970s to secure an independent homeland in the northeast of Sri Lanka for the minority Tamil population. The casualties, caused by a Sri Lankan army ground offensive in the northeast and a suspected Tamil Tiger mine attack on a bus carrying soldiers, raised fears of a return to full-scale civil war on the island.

However despite the new spike in violence, international truce monitors said they still believed that neither side wanted to re-ignite a war that has claimed over 60,000 lives in the past three decades.

“I still don’t believe in a full-scale war,” Ulf Henriccson, the retired Swedish general who leads the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), told journalists in Colombo on Monday.

He suggested the fighting which has raged in recent days could ultimately lead to new negotiations between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

In Monday’s violence, 19 soldiers were killed whe