Seven Soldiers Killed By Sinhalese Militants
Sep. 02, 1989
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ The military said Sinhalese militants killed seven soldiers in the south today, a day after officials and witnesses reported 62 people died in violence inspired by the radicals' anti-government campaign.
Six Sinhalese soldiers were killed when militants detonated explosives in Kamburupitiya village in Matara district, about 85 miles south of Colombo, said military officials who cannot be identified under briefing rules. Four soldiers were injured in the attack, they said.
In a separate attack in Malabe, a Colombo suburb, one soldier died and four others were injured when radicals opened fire on a military patrol, the officials said.
The militants belong to the People's Liberation Front, an extremist Sinhalese group that launched a campaign of violence two years ago after the government made peace overtures to the nation's Tamil minority, who are fighting for a separate nation in the northeast.
Residents of Punewa village, 120 miles north of Colombo, said men in army uniforms rounded up 31 young men late Thursday and fatally shot them. They said the raiders were thought to be pro-government militiamen retaliating for the killing of a policeman by Sinhalese radicals.
Villagers reached by telephone said the homes of the young men and their bodies were burned.
Military officials said 20 other burned bodies with bullet wounds were found in the central Kandy district Friday, but gave no details. Officials also reported 11 other deaths.
The military officials said they had ''heard of the incident'' in Punewa, but had no details. Other sources said at least 30 people were slain in the village to avenge the killing of few hours earlier of police inspector R.M. Ratnayake.
Police said Ratnayake was shot and killed by Sinhalese radicals of the People's Liberation Front.
Opposition parties and human rights organizations say the government has set up vigilante groups to counter the radicals. Vigilantes and the military are accused of killing hundreds of civilians suspected of sympathizing with the guerrillas.
At least 1,222 people have been killed since June 20, when President Ranasinghe Premadasa imposed a state of emergency and gave security forces special powers.
A senior government official said privately that members of the armed forces, police and the governing United National Party asked the government Friday to disarm the four known vigilante groups, called the Yellow Cats, Eagles, Black Cats and People's Revolutionary Red Army.
He said some Cabinet ministers were among the petitioners.
The People's Liberation Front, protesting the alleged killings by the military, called a strike this week that virtually paralyzed the Sinhalese heartland of southern and central Sri Lanka. Sinhalese radicals have called many strikes in their 2-year-old war against the government that has taken more than 4,000 lives. They oppose government concessions to the militants of the ethnic Tamil minority and the presence of Indian peacekeeping troops in that area.
An estimated 10,000 people have been killed in the 6-year-old Tamil war for independence. Tamils, most of whom are Hindus, make up 18 percent of Sri Lanka's 16 million people and claim discrimination by the predominantly Buddhist Sinhalese.
India became involved because it is the regional power and has a Tamil population of 60 million, most of them in Tamil Nadu state just across the Palk Strait from Sri Lanka.
Its soldiers were deployed two years ago to supervise a peace accord aimed at ending the separatist war by giving Tamils limited autonomy.