The Sri Lankan government is seeking to defeat the separatist LTTE, or Tamil Tigers, after the government abandoned a six-year truce in January. In response to attacks on its forces in its northern stronghold, the LTTE has increasingly deployed bombers targeting civilians in and around Colombo, the capital, including a bus bombing and a mine attack on a commuter train earlier this month.
Monday's attack in the northern town of Vavuniya killed 12 police officers and injured dozens more, Bloomberg reports. The military said the presumed LTTE bomber was riding a motorbike and detonated his explosives outside the police station as the officers were changing duty.
The bombing followed a weekend of government strikes against LTTE targets that the military said had left a total of 24 people dead, including five security personnel. Agence France-Presse reported Sunday that warplanes destroyed a LTTE logistics center in northeast Mullaitivu district. The target was described in a military statement as a "logistics base and combat vehicle conversion plant."
The latest deaths raise the number of rebels killed by security forces to 4,241 since January, according to the defence ministry, which says 374 soldiers have died in combat during the same period.
The authorities do not allow media and rights groups to travel to the front lines, making it impossible to independently verify the figures.
Sri Lanka has poured a record 1.5 billion dollars into the war effort this year, hoping for a quick end to the conflict that has left tens of thousands of people dead.
Tamilnet, a pro-LTTE website, gave a different account of Sunday's air strike. It said four civilians had died after planes strafed their refugee camp in an air attack that also damaged a local college, temples, and an education office. Ten other civilians were injured by the attack, it said, without mentioning the LTTE logistics center that the military claimed to have destroyed.
In an analysis, Asia Times Online says that the Tamil Tigers are trying to weaken support among the majority Sinhalese population for the government's military offensive in the north by stepping up terrorist attacks on civilians. It quotes an unnamed Sri Lanka analyst as saying that the LTTE believes that public support may drop to the point where the government goes back to the negotiating table, easing the military pressure on the rebels.
At the same time, the government has been leaning on Sri Lankan journalists to fall in line behind the war and punishing those who disobey. Reporters have been abducted and subjected to official and unofficial intimidation. The Defense Ministry has accused reporters who direct "baseless accusations" against the military of "treachery."
Sri Lanka's Daily News reports that India is seizing more explosives and war materiel that the LTTE is trying to smuggle into Sri Lanka across the strait from Tamil Nadu, the nearby Indian state. Indian authorities have seized ball bearings used as shrapnel in homemade bombs, detonators, walkie-talkies, batteries, and other supplies. Interdiction efforts have increased since the start of 2007, when the LTTE began to lose its grip on its former eastern stronghold around Batticaloa.
Security agencies from the Central and Tamil Nadu Governments are regularly confiscating from the coastal belt ammunition and dual use goods that officials say are destined for the LTTE….
Experts say the LTTE is using stuff smuggled from Tamil Nadu to prepare mines – one of the most lethal weapons in the conflict.
The LTTE uses the lure of its Tamil nationalist ideology and money to procure what it wants from Tamil Nadu, a state it knows well and one separated from Sri Lanka by a narrow strip of sea.
Last week, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rakapaksa accused Britain of failing to stop the Tamil Tigers from raising money there, despite Britain's designation of the LTTE as a terrorist organization. In an interview with Britain's The Times, Mr. Rakapaksa, known as a hard-liner, complained that exiled Tamils in Britain were giving "millions of pounds" that the LTTE was using to buy weapons. Around 150,000 Tamils live in Britain. Rajapaksa also said he would not resume peace talks with the LTTE unless they agreed to disarm and accused the breakaway group of using past truces to train and rearm its forces.
"You can't have two different attitudes towards terrorism," he told The Times this week during a visit to London for a Commonwealth meeting, where he raised the issue with Gordon Brown. "I don't agree that there are good terrorists and bad terrorists. There is only one kind of terrorist."
Sri Lanka has faced international criticism for human rights abuses during the current conflict, including the use of paramilitary groups in disputed areas to intimidate civilians and rebels, reports Reuters. On Friday, the United Nations Human Rights Council called on the Sri Lankan government to investigate multiple reports of human rights abuses and prosecute any security personnel involved, Reuters reports from Geneva. Watchdog groups have been pressing for international human rights monitors to be allowed into the country, where more than 70,000 people have died in three decades of conflict.
Rajiva Wijesingha, secretary to Sri Lanka's ministry of disaster management and human rights, told the Council that his government could only accept 45 of its 80 recommendations.
Sri Lanka was facing "increasingly brutal and vicious atrocities by the LTTE", he said
His government is determined to "defeat the forces of terror" and cannot accept international monitors, but will combat torture and recruitment of child soldiers, he said.
Norway, which brokered six rounds of talks between Sri Lanka and the LTTE between 2002 and 2003, says it's still engaged in the flagging peace process, Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, reports. In a statement, Norway's deputy foreign minister Raymond Johansen said that it hadn't given up on promoting a negotiated settlement that was acceptable to all communities in Sri Lanka. Norway had arranged the cease-fire that was formally abandoned earlier this year.