Sri Lanka Tamil Tigers ask Norway help to stop Mannar offensive

COLOMBO, April 8, 2008 (AFP) – Tamil Tiger rebels asked peace-broker Norway on Tuesday to pressure Sri Lanka’s government to stop a military offensive in the island’s north, saying a venerated Catholic church was at risk. Tens of thousands of people have been killed in Sri Lanka’s separatist conflict.

The Tigers have been fighting for an independent homeland since 1972.

Government forces backed by artillery are pushing into territory held by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the Wanni region, and the guerrillas said the Roman Catholic church of Madhu was in the line of fire.

The Tigers asked Norway’s International Development Minister, Erik Solheim, who was also the top envoy involved in the failed peace efforts, to pressure Colombo to halt the offensive.

“We would like to place a request through you … to the Norwegian government to take steps to immediately end the military assault of the holy Madhu shrine,” the LTTE’s political wing leader, B. Nadesan, wrote to Solheim.

Sri Lanka’s military has denied engaging in operations in the Madhu church area, but security forces have maintained that they want to push into the Wanni region where the guerrillas maintain a de facto mini state.