Sri Lankan Tamil war protester sets himself ablaze

CHENNAI, February 25, 2009 (AFP) – A Sri Lankan Tamil committed suicide by setting himself on fire to protest civilian casualties in Colombo’s military offensive against the Tamil Tiger rebels, Indian police said Wednesday. The Sri Lankan army claims to have driven back the rebels into less than 75 square kilometres (28 square miles) of jungle following weeks of fighting in the island’s north.

India as well as international aid agencies have expressed concern over the plight of the Sri Lankan Tamil civilians in the war zone. B. Gokula Rathinam, who had lived for a number of years in in Chennai, capital of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, walked to the crowded offices of a senior city administration official with a can of kerosene, witnesses and police said.

After shouting slogans against Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s adminstration, he poured the kerosene over himself and set himself ablaze.

Police guarding the offices rushed him to a nearby state-run hospital but doctors declared him dead on arrival.

Rathinam’s death came within days of the suicide by an Indian Tamil activist during an anti-war rally on Saturday in Chennai.

Rathinam, the seventh protester to kill himself o