Nine die in Sri Lanka fighting

Feb 28, 2008 (AFP) – Two bombs left at least eight civilians dead in guerrilla-held territory in northern Sri Lanka, Tamil rebels said Thursday as the defence ministry reported killing nine militants. Casualty figures provided by both sides differ vastly and cannot be independently verified.

The government bars journalists and human rights workers from front line and rebel-held areas. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said Sri Lanka’s military had infiltrated the area and carried out two roadside bomb attacks.

Civilians were travelling in tractor-trailers when they were targeted by the military, the LTTE said in a statement.

“Two Claymore attacks by the Sri Lanka Deep Penetration unit within five hours… killed eight civilians,” the statement said. “In both incidents the victims were travelling in tractor-trailers to work in the paddy (rice) fields.”

Sri Lanka’s military routinely denies carrying out such bombings inside LTTE-held territory in the north, but authorities in Colombo stepped up security amid fears of retaliatory strikes.

Earlier this month, the Tigers made similar allegations against the military, holding it responsible for a string of attacks that ki