Tigers accuse Sri Lanka of killing priest

April 20, 2008 (AFP) – Sri Lankan forces Sunday killed a Roman Catholic priest inside rebel-held territory, Tiger guerrillas said as the defence ministry reported 16 more deaths in fresh violence. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said Father M.X. Karunaratnam, who was also a top human rights campaigner, was killed in a roadside bomb attack carried out by government soldiers who infiltrated the Mallavi area.

The priest headed the North East Secretariat on Human Rights, a group active in guerrilla-held Wanni region in the north of the island, the Tigers said in a statement.

It said a “deep penetrating unit” of the Sri Lankan army carried out the killing, but there was no immediate word from the military. Security forces routinely deny carrying out attacks inside rebel-held territory.

However, troops are leading a major offensive to break through rebel defences in Wanni in a bid to dismantle the guerrillas’ de facto mini-state.

Earlier Sunday, the defence ministry claimed its war planes bombed speed boats operated by Tamil Tiger rebels, but the guerrillas said only a village rebuilt after the December 2004 tsunami had been hit.

Aircraft carried out the bombing raid