Breakaway rebels attack Tamil Tigers - one killed

A faction of Tamil insurgents attacked rival Tamil Tiger rebels in eastern Sri Lanka today, killing at least one person.

The killing came as Sri Lankan government leaders and the Tamil Tigers were to begin their first direct talks in nearly three years later today in Geneva, hoping to shore up a ragged cease-fire agreement and move stalled peace talks back on track.

Daya Master, a spokesman for the Tigers, said one member of the rebels’ auxiliary force was killed in the attack by militants from a group that split off from the Tamil Tigers in early 2004.

The mainstream group accuses the government of backing the renegades and is demanding they be disarmed. The government denies backing the splinter group.

Meanwhile, a pro-rebel website said six gunmen entered the Tiger-held Pulipaynthakal hamlet, 500 yards beyond the line of control in Batticaloa district and fatally shot Shanthakumar Narayanapillai, 28, of the rebels’ National Auxiliary Force.

TamilNet said the attackers were wearing military fatigues.

There was no independent confirmation of the report and the Defence Ministry denied any involvement.

“We do not enter uncleared areas,” said military spokesman Prasad Samarasinghe, referring to the areas in the north and east, where the rebels run their de-facto administration.

“We have not heard of any such incident,” Samarasinghe said.

TamilNet noted that the attack came hours before the opening of the Geneva talks, where the rebels are likely to raise the issue of disarming the breakaway faction.

Tamil rebels have been fighting since 1983 for a Tamil homeland in the north and east of the country, where the minority Tamil population is concentrated. The war killed 65,000 people the cease-fire was signed in 2002.

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