11/02/2007, 00.00
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Head of Tamil Tigers’ political wing killed

by Melani Manel Perera
Leader is killed in air raid launched by government air force this morning. Fear mounts that it could lead to escalation. A recent report by Sri Lanka’s Law & Society Trust notes that five people are killed or disappear every day in Sri Lanka as a result of the ongoing conflict.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – The leader of the Tamil Tigers’ political branch, S.P. Thamilselvan, was killed today in Sri Lanka in an air raid, the rebels announced. For analysts the government’s action might be the start of a dangerous escalation between the two sides. Sri Lanka’s Defence Minister Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who is President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s brother, welcomed the news.

Thamilselvan was the separatists’ main spokesman in the peace talks held in Colombo in October 2006. The air raid in which he died today was the latest in a series of almost daily clashes on land and sea, which have killed some 5,000 people in the last year alone.

The undeclared war between government forces and Tamil fighters is already responsible for a large death toll, especially among civilians. The Law & Society Trust (LST) in Sri Lanka released a report indicating that 662 persons were killed and 540 persons disappeared in the period from January 1 to August 31, 2007. That is 1,202 people altogether, or five a day.

The report, which contains detailed information on all human losses in the conflict, was submitted on October 31 to the Presidential Commission investigating attacks against civilians.

According to the document men are victims in more than 90 per cent of the cases, which disproportionately involve young people—45 per cent of those killed  and almost 60 per cent of disappear are under 30 years of age. Tamils, who make up 16 per cent of Sri Lanka’s population, represent 78 of those who are killed and 84 per cent of those who disappear.

“Our hope is that the investigations by the Presidential Commission could shed light on those who are responsible [for these deeds], ensure justice and put an end to the culture of impunity,” LST Co-ordinator Ruki Fernando told AsiaNews.

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