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Government Says Leaders of Radical Group Killed

November 14, 1989

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ The three leaders of a radical Sinhalese group that has waged a violent campaign to overthrow the government were captured and killed this week, the government said Tuesday.

Foreign Minister Ranjan Wijeratne also said six of the group’s seven Politburo members have been killed.

Upatissa Gamanayake, second-in-command of the ultra-nationalist People’s Liberation Front, was shot to death Monday night when he tried to escape, Wijeratne said.

Gamanayake, 36, was regarded as heir apparent to the front’s founding leader, Rohana Wijeweera, who was reportedly killed Sunday along with his No. 3 man.

A former front leader predicted the group, formed 22 years ago, would disintegrate.

The foreign minister said Gamanayake was captured on information provided by Wijeweera and was taking interrogators to a front hideout when he tried to jump out of the vehicle. Soldiers shot and killed him, Wijeratne said.

Wijeweera was captured Sunday in the central Kandy hill district and brought to Colombo, where he was killed, Wijeratne announced Monday. He said the front’s third-in-command, H.B. Herath, was killed at the same time.

The official said both were killed when Wijeweera was bringing authorities to the front’s headquarters in Colombo. He said Herath pulled a pistol and shot at his colleague and that security forces then shot and killed both men.

Wijeratne refused to identify the one Politburo member who has not been killed, saying only that he is at large.

The People’s Liberation Front began a terror campaign in August 1987 to protest the government’s signing of an accord intended to end a war by Tamil rebels. The front said the accord granted too many concessions to Tamils, who comprise about 18 percent of Sri Lanka’s 16 million people.

It accused the Sinhalese-controlled government of selling out its own people and threatened to kill all who supported the accord.

More than 6,000 people have been killed the past years. The government initially blamed the front for most of the killings, but when charred bodies of young Sinhalese men started turning up along roadsides, officials said pro- government vigilante squads were slaying suspected front members.

Human rights activists, opposition politicians and front supporters also accused government security forces of killing some suspected front supporters.

Victor Ivan, a former front leader, predicted the front would disintegrate with the deaths of Wijeweera and his chief aides.

Ivan was jailed after leading the front’s unsuccessful uprising against the government in 1971. Released with other front members during a general pardon in 1977, he now edits an independent political magazine.

The People’s Liberation Front was founded in 1967 by Wijeweera, an avowed Marxist.

It tried to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike in 1971, but the uprising was put down and at least 20,000 people killed.

The front later dabbled in mainstream politics, then went underground before emerging again as a major force in 1987.

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