26 killed in battle for Sri Lanka town

Aug 4, 2006 (AFP) – Five Muslim civilians were killed in shell attacks in the Sri Lankan town of Muttur Friday, raising the death toll from clashes between the army and Tamil rebels to 26, a Muslim legislator said. The attack on a school came despite appeals to both the government and Tamil Tiger rebels to hold their fire at least until residents have attended their Friday prayers, government legislator A.H.M. Azwer said.

Shells on Thursday slammed into three schools where frightened residents of the majority-Muslim town had taken shelter, killing at least 17 civilians, military officials reported.

Two constables and two paramilitary troopers attached to the local police were also killed in the clashes.

“We were discussing till midnight with the military to ensure that they hold their fire,” Azwer said. “But, this morning we have the sad news that five more civilians have been killed when two shells hit a school where they sheltered.”

Politicians from the north-east of the island met with top officials and the military in Colombo to plead for a break in the fighting to allow some 30,000 Muslims trapped in Muttur to conduct Friday prayers.

Azwer said the government security forces blamed the Libe

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