Tigers deny forcing Muslims out of Sri Lanka town

COLOMBO, Sept 25, 2006 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger rebels Monday denied forcing minority Muslims to quit a coastal town where 17 aid workers of a French charity were massacred last month.

The rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said they were not responsible for distributing leaflets among thousands of Muslims in the town of Muttur demanding they leave the area.

Local residents said dozens of families had fled to public buildings fearing attacks after they received handbills warning of an impending rebel attack on the area.

Thousands of residents of Muttur who fled the fighting last month began returning two weeks ago after security forces gained control of the nearby rebel-held town of Sampur, a key guerrilla artillery base.

The LTTE in a statement denied responsibility and in turn blamed government forces for a misinformation campaign to discredit the guerrillas and divert attention from a recent massacre of 10 Muslim men elsewhere in Sri Lanka.

“The military wins on three scores, diverting the attention, turning the anger of the Muslim people onto the LTTE, and pretending to protect the Muslim people,” LTTE official S. Puleedevan said in a statement.