Sri Lanka election violence escalates after killing

January 13, 2010 (AFP) – Sri Lankan police Wednesday broke up clashes between political activists as violence linked to looming presidential polls escalated after gunmen shot dead an opposition party worker. Tear-gas was fired to disperse thousands of party workers in the eastern town of Polonnaruwa, local officials said by telephone.

About 3,000 opposition supporters destroyed a ruling party office in the town after posters of their favoured presidential candidate, Sarath Fonseka, were destroyed overnight, a police official said.

“It was a mini-war between rival groups,” said the official, who declined to be named. At least five people were seriously wounded in the clashes.

The violence came as the government vowed to step up security in the run up to the January 26 election at which President Mahinda Rajapakse is seeking re-election.

Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe accused Rajapakse’s People’s Alliance of inciting violence and using intimidation to swing voters.

“People linked to the government were behind yesterday’s killing,” Wickremesinghe told reporters in Colombo.

Opposition activist Kusuma Kuruppuarachchi, 60, was gunned down Tuesday as she was travelling in a bu