Sri Lanka truce hangs by thread

July 28, 2006 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s ceasefire hung by a thread Friday as Tamil Tiger rebels and government forces traded artillery fire and Finland announced its truce observers would leave the country. More than 60,000 people have been killed in the three-decade-old Tamil separatist conflict. Sri Lankan war planes struck a Tamil Tiger base Friday, the third straight day of bombing, government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said.

“The airforce carried out another round of aerial attacks against the Tigers today in the Trincomalee area,” said Rambukwella, the policy planning minister and government spokesman on defence.

He said the bombing campaign was aimed at opening an irrigation canal shut down by the Tigers that had deprived water to a large farming community in the area.

Members of the Swedish-led Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) had gone to the area in a bid to settle the water issue, Rambukwella said.

Finland became the first country to announce a withdrawal after the rebels demanded European Union (EU) member states stop monitoring a Norwegian-arranged ceasefire in place since 2002.

Officials said artillery exchanges followed air strikes that started Wednesday against posi