Sri Lanka port city rocks as neighbourhood battles rage

TRINCOMALEE, Sri Lanka, Aug 2, 2006 (AFP) – The sounds of explosions in this northeastern Sri Lankan port town were more muffled Wednesday than during an intense artillery attack a day earlier, but residents found them just as scary. “We had no sleep from midnight because of the explosions at a distance,” said housewife H. P. Bandumathi, 71. “We kept hearing them at regular intervals.”

The military said Tamil Tiger rebels launched mortar and artillery fire at three army camps on the outskirts of Muttur, just 10 kilometers (6 miles) by sea from Trincomalee, before dawn Wednesday.

They followed this at daylight with a bombardment of Muttur itself, a mainly Muslim fishing town, prompting army retaliation according to military officials.

Wednesday’s fighting cost at least 47 lives by official count, though claims by the military that more than 40 Tiger fighters were among the dead could not be independently verified.

The fighting further jangled nerves of residents of Trincomalee, known by tourists for its unpolluted sandy white beaches and therapeutic hot springs but eyed by the rebels as the capital of a seperate state they are fighting for.

On Tuesday Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) guerrillas fired 36 shel