Fresh fighting erupts in eastern Sri Lanka as Indian envoy arrives

COLOMBO, Nov 23, 2006 (AFP) – Heavy fighting gripped Sri Lanka on Thursday as Tamil Tiger rebels and troops blamed each other for the renewed battles and India sent a top envoy to discuss the worsening violence.

Sri Lanka’s defence ministry said war planes pounded bases of the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the northeastern district of Mullaitivu where the rebels have their main military installations.

“Air strikes were launched following confirmation by air force unmanned aerial vehicles that these were Sea Tiger bases,” the ministry said in a statement.

It said the Tiger bases had the capacity to launch attacks on naval patrols in the area.

The fresh air strikes came as New Delhi sent Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon to the island to discuss with Sri Lankan officials the upsurge in fighting and the plight of civilians, diplomats said.

Menon, a former ambassador to Colombo who arrived here late Wednesday, is due to meet with President Mahinda Rajapakse who begins a four-day visit to India later this week.

New Delhi has expressed deep concern over the plight of minority Tamils in the embattled northeast where there has been a spike in clashes between troops and T