Tamil Tiger rebels set fire to civilian ferry in eastern Sri Lanka

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September 12, 2001

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) via NewsEdge Corporation -

Tamil Tiger rebels set fire to a ferry in eastern Sri Lanka in an attack targeting Muslim residents who had been staging anti-rebel protests, the defense ministry said Tuesday.

Government troops repulsed the attackers, but the ferry, which serves as a lifeline in the coastal area, was damaged, military spokesman Brig. Sanath Karunaratne said. Monday's rebel attack was in Muttur, a Muslim dominated area about 220 kilometers (130 miles) northeast of the capital, Colombo. Residents of the area have been protesting during the last week against alleged extortion attempts by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam rebels. Residents also alleged that the LTTE squeezed businessmen in Muttur for money.

The ferry is used daily by thousands of civilians, and is the only way of traveling across the bay from the port city of Trincomalee. "This is an attack to clearly disturb the lives of these people," Karunaratne said.

There was no independent confirmation of the defense ministry's claim and the rebels did not mention the attack on their website. Meanwhile, government troops destroyed a guerrilla bunker in northern Jaffna Peninsula on Monday, the military said. No casualties were reported.

The rebels have been fighting since 1983 for a separate state for Tamils, claiming discrimination at the hands of the 14 million Sinhalese majority.

Tamil's account for 3.2 million while Muslim's number 1.3 million of Sri Lanka's 18.6 million population. _______

On the Net:

Rebel site: www.eelamweb.com Sri Lankan military: www.slarmy.org

-- Rich Marsh (marshr@airmail.net), September 12, 2001

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