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Families Hurt by Sri Lanka War View Army Offensive With Hope

"When I got the call, I didn't want to believe it. I kept calling people to confirm it," said his wife of 21 years, a doctor who heads the country's community health programs. "I was still wishing he would come back for breakfast. Just like he had promised."

Fernandopulle was the second minister to be killed last year. In January, the minister for nation-building, D.M. Dassanayake, died in a roadside blast in the same district.

Sri Lanka's Defense Ministry blamed Tamil Tiger rebels. The Tigers usually deny such attacks, but heavy fighting in the north at the time meant they could not be reached for comment.

The U.S. government has labeled the Tigers a terrorist organization. In 1991, a female Tiger suicide bomber assassinated the former Indian prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, who was campaigning for reelection. He had backed an Indian peacekeeping force created by a 1987 accord. In Sri Lanka, the Tigers also terrorized Tamils in communities they said they represented. The fighters would forcibly conscript people, including children.

The Sri Lankan government has also been accused of human rights abuses, including abductions and unsubstantiated arrests of Tamils, according to rights groups. The government disputes those claims. In recent days, the international community has been pressuring President Mahinda Rajapaksa to find a long-term political solution.

"The point we've made to the government is that once they occupy all the territory in the north, which should be a matter of weeks or less, that will not end the LTTE, because the LTTE still has a large number of guerrillas underground that will continue to rely on the support of the Tamil diaspora," said Robert Blake, the U.S. ambassador to Sri Lanka, in an interview in the capital.

Referring to the Tigers by the abbreviation for their formal name, he added: "The LTTE also has a significant network of businesses outside Sri Lanka that generate substantial income for the LTTE. So it will be very important for the government to come forward with a package of political proposals that will really ensure the Tamils of Sri Lanka a position of dignity and respect, and give them some measure of local autonomy in the areas in which they predominate."

Nanayakkara's family and Fernandopulle's are watching the news closely. They both know loss, and that's the same feeling no matter which side of the war a victim is on, they said.

"I really just want the war to end," said Fernandopulle, who added that she took comfort in the fact that the night before her husband died, the family had a big get-together to celebrate their daughter's grades.

She wants to be a doctor, like her mother. Her brother wants to be a lawyer, like his father. But their mother is very clear: Don't enter politics, she tells them. They say they will listen.


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