06/20/2006, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Historical Buddhist temple attacked in Sri Lanka

The government accuses Tamil Tiger rebels who have not yet commented. Last Saturday government forces attacked a church in a Tamil village.

Colombo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Sri Lanka's government has accused Tamil Tiger rebels of attacking yesterday a historic Buddhist temple in the eastern part of the country.

A government statement said that the rebels had fired small arms towards the Somawathi shrine, northeast of the capital, Colombo.

The rebels fled after security forces guarding the shrine returned fire, the statement said.

The rebels have not commented on the incident yet.

The government statement said that Tigers had attacked the shrine to try to "arouse the sentiments of the Sinhalese Buddhists against the innocent Tamils to cause Sinhalese-Tamil strife".

Rising violence in Sri Lanka has left almost 100 people dead in the past week.

According to Mgr Rayappu Joseph, bishop of Mannar, some sailors on Saturday threw a hand grenade against Our Lady of Victory Church in the village of Pesalai killing a 70-year-old woman and injuring more than40 people who had sought shelter.

In the worst incident since the 2002 ceasefire was signed, 64 people were killed north of Colombo last Thursday when the bus in which they were travelling was blown up by a mine.

Yesterday the government urged Tamil Tiger rebels, who have been fighting for the past 20 years for the independence of the north-eastern regions of the island, to resume stalled peace talks to avoid a return to civil war.

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