06/04/2007, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Two Red Cross volunteers abducted in Colombo are killed

Their bodies are found in Ratnapura. They were taken by armed men claiming to be police. Yesterday, a tense battle was waged in the north; at least 82 rebels and soldiers died. Special Japanese envoy is expected in the country to put peace process back on track.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Two Sri Lankan Red Cross volunteers were found murdered yesterday, their bullet-riddled bodies dumped in the Ratnapura city area. The two were abducted two days earlier in the capital Colombo by a group of armed men claiming to be police, the humanitarian organisation announced.

“The two were part of a group of six aid workers brought from Batticaloa (in the island's east) for a training programme related to tsunami relief work last week,” Sri Lanka Red Cross Director-General Neville Nanayakkara said.

The bodies of S Shanmungaligam and K Chandramohan were discovered late on Saturday in the central town of Ratnapura, central Sri Lanka.

Police denied any involvement in the incident, which came a day after President Mahinda Rajapaksa said most complaints about abductions by police and the army were false.

Human rights groups have instead reported hundreds of abductions and disappearances in recent months in areas controlled by the military after a two-decade civil war resumed in earnest in the country’s northern and eastern regions.

Yesterday, violent clashes between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the army in the northern districts of Vavuniya and Mannar left 82 people dead, 52 rebels and 30 soldiers.

Japan's special peace envoy to Sri Lanka, Yasushi Akashi, is expected to arrive in the island nation tomorrow. Japan’s is Sri Lanka main international donor and his four-day visit is designed to jumpstart the peace process after it stalled almost a year ago.

In a few days the war heroes’ month that began on May 7 established for the first time this year by Sri Lankan President Rajapakse should also end. The month-long celebration is meant to raise army morale and hopes to boost popular support for a war among an increasingly weary civilian population.

Local Catholic sources have for their part said that whilst they understand the need to remember “the military who fell in the conflict,” they do not want celebrations to be reduced to mere propaganda. Instead, the event should be an occasion to commemorate the even “greater number of civilians who paid the ultimate price in a brutal war.”

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