Security forces kill Tamil Tiger rebels

Offensive comes a day before four-day holiday truce
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The Independent Online

A day before a goodwill truce between the government and Tamil Tiger separatists was to begin, security force soldiers killed five rebels in the northern war zone.

A day before a goodwill truce between the government and Tamil Tiger separatists was to begin, security force soldiers killed five rebels in the northern war zone.

Troops shot and killed two rebels in the northern Jaffna Peninsula and three others were killed and four wounded in Weli Oya, in the northeast, said U. Gajaman, deputy government spokesman.

The government announced that its troops would observe a four–day cease–fire to mark the Sinhalese and Tamil New Year, the only holiday the two communities share. The truce was to run from tomorrow, the holiday, until April 17.

Tamil rebels have been observing a unilateral cease–fire since Christmas Eve. It expires April 24. They have demanded the lifting of a ban on their organization and a longer truce before peace talks brokered by Norway can begin.

The government has ruled out a long cease–fire, saying the rebels would use it to rearm and regroup.

Besides Sri Lanka, the rebels are banned in the United States, India and Britain.

Rebels of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have been fighting since 1983 for a Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka's north and east. They accuse the majority Sinhalese of discrimination. More than 63,000 people have died in the war.

Sinhalese make up 74 percent of Sri Lanka's population of 18.6 million people, while Tamils are 18 percent and Muslims seven percent.

The government also announced that it will release 10 Tamil rebel fighters from prison as a goodwill gesture.

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