Rebels Warn of Repercussions After Raid

The Associated Press
Wednesday, January 3, 2007; 5:17 PM

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka -- The Tamil Tigers warned the government Wednesday that it could face "serious repercussions" after the rebels said an air force raid killed 16 people, including eight children.

The air force said it had targeted a base in the northwest on Tuesday operated by the rebel naval wing. The Defense Ministry denied that civilians were bombed and accused the rebels of spreading false information to discredit the security forces and win international sympathy.

Seevaratnam Puleedevan, a senior rebel official, said the death toll from the airstrike rose to 16 on Wednesday when two injured children succumbed to their injuries.

"We condemn this brutal attack and we warn the Sri Lanka state of serious repercussions," Puleedevan said by telephone from northern Kilinochchi. "It will be a serious."

The Tamil Tigers _ who have been fighting since 1983 for a separate homeland for the country's 3.1 million ethnic Tamils _ released photos of what they said were victims of the bombing arriving at a hospital. In one, a child was shown with blood on his face, appearing to writhe in pain.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs also expressed concern over civilian deaths in the air raid. In a Web statement, the office urged both sides to take measures to protect civilians, adding the U.N. had "too often seen them fall short in this duty."

A Norwegian-brokered 2002 cease-fire has come under serious threat as more than 3,600 fighters and civilians were killed in renewed fighting in 2006. The cease-fire still officially holds.

Before the cease-fire, the conflict claimed the lives of about 65,000 people and displaced another 1.6 million.

© 2007 The Associated Press