More deaths in Sri Lanka ahead of peace talks

Sept 16, 2006 (AFP) – Suspected Tamil Tiger rebels shot dead three civilians and a government soldier in separate incidents, the defence ministry said Saturday. The Tamil rebels are fighting for an independent homeland for the Tamil minority. More than 60,000 people have been killed in Sri Lanka’s bitter ethnic conflict since 1972. Two civilians were killed in the northern peninsula of Jaffna on Friday while the third was killed in the eastern district of Batticaloa, the ministry said.

It said the soldier was gunned down in the northern town of Vavuniya late Friday.

The killings occurred despite peacebroker Norway’s announcement earlier this week that the government and rebels had agreed to unconditional talks.

The government said Wednesday it would attend the talks set for next month in a bid to halt escalating violence which has left a 2002 truce in tatters.