Clashes kill rebel intelligence chief
Second major loss in Tamil Tigers’ leadership within weeks as conflict expected to intensify
COLOMBO— The Tamil Tigers’ military intelligence chief was among 34 rebels killed in heavy fighting in northern Sri Lanka on Saturday, the military and a pro-Tiger website said, amid signs the 25-year civil war was escalating. Shanmuganathan Ravishankar, also known as Colonel Charles, was killed in clashes in the northwestern district of Mannar, where fierce fighting has been focused for months, the military said yesterday.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who are fighting for an independent homeland, had no immediate comment, but pro-rebel website www.tamilnet.com said Charles had been killed by a roadside bomb planted in Tiger territory by the army.
“It is confirmed that their military intelligence leader Charles was killed,” said military spokesperson Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara.
The death comes just days after President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government announced it was formally cancelling a 2002 truce with the Tigers. Analysts expect this to lead to a bloody intensification of a conflict that has killed about 70,000 people since 1983.
Just weeks ago the leader of the Tigers’ political wing was killed in an air raid amid a declared government drive to annihilate the rebels militarily and overrun the de facto state they run in the island’s north.
The military said troops killed another four rebels in the northern Jaffna peninsula yesterday, and that two other Tigers committed suicide in the area by exploding a bomb to avoid arrest.
Nordic ceasefire monitors are wrapping up their six-year mission after the government gave 14 days’ notice last Wednesday that it was ending the ceasefire, which broke down almost as soon as Rajapaksa came to power in late 2005.
Well over 5,000 people have been killed since then in air strikes, land and sea clashes and ambushes. With files from Colombo-based freelance journalist Namini Wijedasa