Friday, February 8, 2008

Sri Lanka Says Rebels Start `Mental War' on Civilians

Feb. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Sri Lanka's rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam is unleashing a ``mental war'' on civilians through bomb attacks to mask its defeats in the north, Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake said.

The LTTE killed 73 civilians in the past month, while 68 soldiers died in operations in the north, the last area held by the Tamil Tigers, Wickramanayake told Parliament. The LTTE says 49 Tamil civilians died and 18 disappeared during the conflict in January. In the latest clashes, 34 rebels and one soldier were killed, the Associated Press cited the military as saying today.

``When terrorists face severe setbacks militarily, they begin to attack innocent civilians mentally,'' the prime minister said, according to the Web site of the Media Center for National Security. ``This is another face of terrorism.''

The Tamil Tigers, who have fought for a separate homeland in Sri Lanka for 25 years, were driven from the east in July and now control areas only in the north. The government ended its 2002 cease-fire with the LTTE on Jan. 16, prompting attacks.

Three bombings between Feb. 2 and Feb. 4 killed 48 civilians. A female suicide bomber blew herself up in the Fort railway station in the capital, Colombo, on Feb. 3, killing 15 civilians. At least 33 people died in two attacks on buses, the government said in a statement at the time.

Suspect Arrested

Police arrested an ethnic-Sinhalese woman suspected of transporting the bomb that exploded on a bus on Jan. 2 in Dambulla, killing 20 people, the Daily Mirror reported on its Web site today. She was detained at a hospital in the town, where she was being treated, it said.

The government intends to defeat terrorism and bring sustainable peace through a solution that is in accordance with Sri Lanka's constitution, Wickramanayake said.

The Tamil Tigers are confined to a jungle area in the north and are attempting to show they remain strong through bomb attacks that target civilians, the prime minister said.

``Everybody knows the LTTE has been trapped into one place today,'' he said. ``The LTTE is attempting to unleash terror in the south due to its inability to face our armed forces.''

Sri Lanka's government, marking the 60th anniversary of independence from Britain this week, said the LTTE is fighting its ``last battle.''

International Donors

The U.K. joined the U.S., Japan, the European Union and Norway, the leaders of a group of international donors for Sri Lanka, in calling for a political settlement in the country.

``Violence can never provide an answer to Sri Lanka's problems,'' U.K. Foreign Secretary David Miliband said in a statement on the Web site of the British Embassy in Colombo yesterday. ``A sustainable solution to the conflict can only emerge through a just political process involving all communities.''

President Mahinda Rajapaksa's government says it won't consider any peace settlement that divides the country of 20 million people. Tamils make up 11.9 percent of the population and Sinhalese almost 74 percent, according to a 2001 census.

An all-party forum has proposed creating an interim council in the Northern Province under a power-sharing agreement based on a 1987 constitutional amendment creating provincial councils.

The LTTE, designated a terrorist organization by the U.S., the EU and India, rejected the amendment in 1988, saying it left too much power with the national Parliament.