COLOMBO (Reuters) - A little known Sri Lankan rebel group claimed responsibility on Tuesday for recent bomb attacks on transport as revenge for what it said were government attacks and aerial bombings on innocent Tamil civilians.
The military has blamed Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eeelam (LTTE) rebels for a series of train and bus blasts in the capital Colombo and central Sri Lanka in which at least 32 people were killed and over 100 wounded.
“We want to claim that we are responsible for the bomb attacks on the transport vehicles and other attacks,” Ellalan Force, which the military says is a Tiger-linked group, said in an e-mail to Reuters.
Analysts have previously said the LTTE uses front groups it has established to deflect blame for civilian deaths from the mainstream leadership.
The attacks have been carried out as a “stern reply” to the government forces’ Long Range Reconnaissance Petrol (LRRP) attack and aerial bombing on innocent civilians, the Ellalan Force said in the e-mail.
“The LRRP attacks and the aerial bombings on Tamil innocent civilians must stop. The Sinhalese must understand (the) situation clearly and think about why the ‘Ellalan Force’ continue their attacks.”
Twenty-six Tamil civilians have been killed in three LRRP attacks and an aerial bombing in rebel stronghold of the Mullateevu area in the north since May 23, the group claimed.
The mail also urges Sri Lanka’s majority Sinhalese ethnic group to put pressure on the government to stop killing innocent Tamils.
The military strongly denies any LRRP involvements in killing Tamil civilians.
“Our LRRP never attack innocent civilians. LRRP is doing their attacks targeting LTTE cadres with arms,” military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara told Reuters.
“Ellalan Force is some LTTE-connected group. They wanted to somehow attack civilians, and get the provocation from the civilian forces and get the international attention for their work,” he said.
The pro-rebel www.tamilnet.com website claimed the warning had been issued by a "shady force", but carried the full statement.
A roadside bomb exploded near a crowded passenger bus in the Sri Lankan capital on Friday, killing at least 22 people and wounding 47, while an evening bomb in the central Sri Lanka killing two and injuring 20, the military said.
On Wednesday, a claymore mine targeting a Colombo bound passenger train wounded 27 civilians, while a train bomb blast had killed at least eight people in the capital Colombo on May 26.
The fighting between the government forces and rebels, has intensified since early this year, after the government annulled a 6-year Norway brokered truce.
The protracted 25-year bloody civil war has killed more than 70,000 people.
The military say they have killed over 4,046 rebels this year alone while losing 460 of their soldiers so far this year, and that the Tigers have killed 205 civilians so far this year.
Analysts say the military has the upper hand in the latest phase of the long-running war given superior air power, strength of numbers and swathes of terrain captured in the island’s east. But they still see no clear winner on the horizon.
Additional reporting by Ranga Sirilal; Editing by David Fox