Sri Lanka steps up security as fresh fighting kills seven

COLOMBO, April 8, 2007 (AFP) – Sri Lankan stepped up security Sunday over fears of bomb attacks ahead of the traditional New Year festivities this week while the military said six rebels and a soldier were killed in fresh fighting. A government soldier was killed in a confrontation with Tamil Tiger rebels in the north of the island Saturday, the military said in a statement. It said three guerrillas were also killed.

In a similar skirmish in the eastern district of Batticaloa, three Tiger rebels were shot dead and their bodies were captured by the security forces, the military said in a statement.

The latest clashes came hours after suspected Tiger rebels set off a powerful roadside bomb against a civilian bus in the island’s north Saturday, killing eight people and wounding 25.

Sniffer dogs were deployed at main bus stations Sunday to guard against explosives being planted following a separate parcel bomb attack last week aboard a bus in which 17 people were killed and 25 wounded in the eastern district of Ampara.

The blasts come ahead of the April 14 New Year celebrations marked by the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamils.

The government blamed both blasts on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LT