Hindu priest shot dead after welcoming Sri Lanka president

Feb 8, 2007 (AFP) - Suspected Tamil Tiger rebels shot dead a Hindu priest who welcomed President Mahinda Rajapakse to a former guerrilla bastion in the island's east, military officials said Thursday. Selliah Parameswar was dragged out of his house in Batticaloa district and shot dead late Wednesday by a group of unidentified gunmen, officials said.

"We believe this is the work of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) because he garlanded the president and welcomed him to Vakarai," a local military official said by telephone.

Rajapakse visited Vakarai, a former LTTE stronghold, after security forces captured the town following weeks of fighting that left 41 soldiers and 331 rebels killed by official count.

The Sri Lankan president has invited the LTTE, who are fighting for independence for the country's minority Tamils, to surrender arms and resume peace negotiations.

"They must begin surrendering weapons and come for talks," Rajapakse told AFP while visiting Vakarai, which the guerrillas ran as a de facto separate state for over a decade.

A majority of Tamils are Hindus while most of the island's dominant Sinhalese community are Buddhists.


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