Sri Lanka town shuts down to mourn slain Hindu priest

Feb 9, 2007 (AFP) – A town in Sri Lanka’s embattled east shut down Friday as a sign of respect for a Hindu priest gunned down four days after he welcomed President Mahinda Rajapakse to a former guerrilla stronghold. Military officials said shops closed and transport was halted in Valachchenai to mourn Selliah Parameswar, who was dragged out of his house and killed late Wednesday by a group of unidentified gunmen.

“The security forces have tightened security in the area ensuring continuous essential services,” the defence ministry said in a statement.

“Troops are also engaged in providing security to vehicles of non-governmental organisations engaged in facilitating essential services.”

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) denied on Thursday killing the priest and blamed a breakaway faction allegedly collaborating with security forces.

“Family members of the priest said they suspected the paramilitary (breakaway Tiger group) of the murder because the paramilitaries suspected that the priest informed the LTTE about military positions,” the Tigers said.

The priest blessed Rajapakse last week when he visited a former LTTE stronghold captured by security forces in January after weeks of fi