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Sri Lanka Parliament Member Killed

November 2, 1999

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ Assassins killed a Tamil member of parliament on Tuesday, riddling his van with gunfire in the outskirts of Colombo.

Meanwhile, in the north, Sri Lankan rebels broke through government defenses, killing more than 150 soldiers, a military official said.

Ramesh Nadarajah, who supported the rebels and strongly criticized his own Eelam People’s Democratic Party _ the largest Tamil party in parliament _ was slain by motorcycle gunmen while heading to work.

Detectives said two men apparently drove up to his minivan and opened fire. The driver tried to escape down a side road, but it was a dead end. The assassins circled the vehicle, raining bullets into the vehicle. The driver also was killed.

There was no claim of responsibility for the attack.

Unlike most such killings, police did not immediately blame the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam rebels, who have been fighting a 16-year war for an independent homeland for the minority Tamils.

Hours before the assassination, rebels overran a government outpost at Oddusudan, 155 miles north of Colombo, the capital, killing more than 150 soldiers and wounding 400 others, a military official said.

The army said many rebels were killed but could not give an exact number.

The rebels, who claimed victory, said the battle lasted nine hours.

``Hundreds of dead bodies of soldiers are scattered all over the jungle areas,″ said a statement from the London office of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

The last time the government suffered such heavy casualties was in September 1998, when more than 1,000 soldiers were killed during fighting along a highway that links the capital to the government-held northern town of Jaffna.

The rebels have been accused of assassinating Tamil moderates who challenge their claim to speak for Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority. However, Nadarajah had been supportive of the militants, particularly in the newspaper Thinamurasu, an influential Tamil-language weekly he edited.

Nadarajah was a member of parliament for Jaffna, a city in the country’s northern peninsula considered the center of Tamil culture. His party was once a rebel group, and entered the political mainstream in 1990. It has seven seats in parliament.

In the past year, Nadarajah used his paper to criticize Tamil parties that cooperated with the Sinhalese majority _ including his own party.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga is seeking re-election Dec. 21. A separate vote for parliament is expected to follow a few months later.

``Especially at election time, the paper would have been a very potent force in terms of who the Tamils voted for,″ political analyst Manoranjan Rajasingam said. ``It reflected Tamil opinion and reinforced Tamil opinion.″

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