Sri Lanka

Grenade blast wounds 8 in Sri Lanka refugee camp

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By Simon Gardner

COLOMBO, May 11 (Reuters) - An unidentified attacker threw a grenade into a camp housing hundreds of war-displaced in Sri Lanka's restive east overnight, and the ensuing blast hospitalised eight civilians, police said on Friday.

The explosion in the camp, set up in a Muslim school in the town of Kattankudi in the eastern district of Batticaloa, comes as a new chapter in a two-decade civil war between the state and Tamil Tiger rebels unfolds.

It also closely followed visits to the island by top U.S. State Department official Richard Boucher and Anglican spiritual leader Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

"Someone threw a grenade over the wall into the camp, and eight people were wounded and taken to hospital," a police officer told Reuters from Kattankudi.

"We don't know who threw the grenade," said the officer, who declined to be named.

The military says it has nearly driven Tiger fighters from Batticaloa, where an armed renegade faction called the Karuna group -- which analysts say is allied to the government -- operates freely.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who want to carve out an independent state for minority Tamils in the island's north and east, were not immedately available for comment.

Sri Lanka has been plagued by near daily land and sea clashes between the military and Tigers in recent months, and analysts fear conflict that has killed nearly 70,000 people since 1983 is set to escalate.

Wrapping up a three-day visit to the island on Thursday, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Boucher said Washington was concerned by a spate of abductions and killings blamed on each side during the conflict.

The United States has halted some aid to Sri Lanka as human rights abuses rise amid renewed civil war, he said.

Earlier in the week, Archbishop Williams said he wanted to help foster peace on the majority-Buddhist Indian Ocean island at "a time of great trial and suffering for the people of Sri Lanka."

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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