50 More Killed in Sri Lanka, Bodies Found in Waterways
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ Officials and witnesses reported Monday that 50 more people had been killed in Sri Lanka’s ethnic violence, including 38 men whose bodies were found in waterways and on roads.
Military officials blamed most of the deaths reported in the previous 24 hours on Sinhalese radicals of the People’s Liberation Front, an anti- government nationalist guerrilla group.
Officials, who cannot be identified under briefing rules, said soldiers and civilians found 38 bodies of men in central and southern Sri Lanka, the Sinhalese heartland, in rivers, lakes and canals and along roads. They gave no details.
Residents said they found four naked bodies of men, tied together, floating Monday in the Kelani River on Colombo’s northern outskirts. Police said the bodies were of Sinhalese militants.
Independent sources said many of the 50 reported killed may have been Sinahalese militants slain by the military or pro-government vigilante groups.
Radical Sinhalese had called a one-week strike that ended Sunday night.
In central Sri Lanka on Sunday night, men thought to be members of the People’s Liberation Front stormed a military camp and two police stations, but were repulsed, officials reported. They said four of the attackers were killed and one was captured.
Two unidentified gunmen killed a Sinhalese man Sunday in central Sri Lanka and three civilians were killed by militants Monday, the officials said, without giving details.
According to government figures, more than 5,000 people have been killed in the violent campaign begun by Sinhalese radicals two years ago to protest government peace overtures to Tamil secessionists in northern and eastern Sri Lanka.
Sinhalese militants also object to the presence of Indian peacekeeping soldiers deployed to enforce a 1987 peace accord designed to end the Tamil war for a separate homeland, which has taken at least 11,000 lives in six years. The dead include 1,000 Indian soldiers.
Tamils, most of whom are Hindus, make up 18 percent of Sri Lanka’s 16 million people and claim discrimination in jobs and education by the majority Sinhalese. The Sinhalese, a predominantly Buddhist ethnic group, make up 75 percent of the population and control the government and the military.
India became involved because it is the regional power and has its own Tamil population of 60 million, most of whom live in southern Tamil Nadu state, across the Palk Strait from Sri Lanka.