Fighting Between Sri Lanka Government and Tamils Grows Wider and Fiercer

Fighting between government troops and Tamil Tigers is intensifying in Sri Lanka’s north and east. The government’s decision to launch a ground offensive near Trincomalee two weeks earlier may have been a turning point in the slide to renewed civil war. Fierce battles were reported not only around the eastern cities of Batticaloa and Trincomalee, but also in the Jaffna peninsula, where the Tigers started an attack. Unconfirmed reports suggest heavy Tiger casualties.

About 60,000 people sought refuge in temporary shelters as of 15 August, but another 30,000 or so were trapped by the fighting. Hundreds of civilians are feared to have perished, although precise numbers could not be verified. Reports indicate that 61 school girls were killed in a government air strike on the northern district of Mullaitivu.

In the capital Colombo, Ketheesh Loganathan, the deputy head of the government’s peace secretariat (the liaison for the Norwegian-brokered 2002 cease-fire) and a veteran Tamil human rights advocate, was shot dead. Also in Colombo, a bomb blast killed seven people, but Pakistan’s High Commissioner, Bashir Wali Mohamed, escaped uninjured. He may have been targeted by the Tamil Tigers because Pakistan supplies arms to the Sri Lankan government.

Officially, both sides have maintained they are abiding by the cease-fire’s terms, a position increasingly difficult to reconcile with on-the-ground realities.

The government said it was prepared to hold peace talks yesterday, but the Tigers dismissed the idea. Seevarathnam Puleedevan, a senior Tiger spokesman said “The Sri Lankan government's attacks make peace talks and the implementation of the ceasefire agreement impossible.” Adding to the confusing picture, the European ceasefire monitoring team in Sri Lanka said it was the Tigers that had suggested new peace talks—which the Tigers in turn denied.

“Heavy Fighting in Sri Lanka,” BBC News Online, 15 August 2006.
Justin Huggler, “Tamils Turn Down Peace Negotiations as Fighting Intensifies,”Independent (Britain), 14 August 2006.
“Sri Lanka Strike 'Hits Orphanage',” BBC News Online, 14 August 2006.
“Fresh Clashes Flare in Sri Lanka,” BBC News Online, 12 August 2006.