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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 June 2006, 15:59 GMT 16:59 UK
Sri Lankan temple attack denied
Sri Lankan policeman at a mass funeral
More than 60 people were killed in a bus attack last week
The head monk of a Buddhist temple has contradicted a Sri Lankan government report that the Tamil Tigers attacked his temple.

The monk told the BBC that shots had been fired at a sentry point, not at the Somawathi shrine itself, 170km (105 miles) north-east of Colombo.

He said it was unclear who fired the shots. The Tamil Tigers earlier denied attacking the temple.

Meanwhile, the rebels have said they are committed to a four-year-old truce.

Motive unclear

The shrine's chief monk, Mahamune Sri Sumangala, told the BBC Sinhala service it was difficult to see a motive for the attack near his temple, which injured no one and caused no damage.

We have committed to the ceasefire agreement and Norway's facilitation role
S Puleedevan,
Rebel peace secretariat

"All through the conflict, we never had any trouble from the Tigers," he said.

"Since 2002, the area had been relatively peaceful. But there are so many groups around in the area including hunters. It is difficult to say who is responsible."

A government statement had earlier accused the rebels of firing small arms towards the Somawathi shrine on Monday.

The statement said the rebels had attacked the shrine to try to "arouse the sentiments of the Sinhalese Buddhists against the innocent Tamils to cause Sinhalese-Tamil strife".

"On retaliation by security forces guarding the sacred site, the insurgents fled the scene, abandoning yet another attempt to create a backlash," the statement said.

The rebels swiftly denied the allegation.

Fears of war

Violence in Sri Lanka has left almost 100 people dead in the past week. Hundreds more have been killed since late last year.

Tamil Tiger rebels
The Tamil Tigers say they are committed to the truce

On Monday there were exchanges of heavy weapons fire between troops and rebels in the Jaffna peninsula and air force overflights of rebel-held territory.

The BBC's Dumeetha Luthra in Colombo says the island's four-year-old ceasefire exists only on paper and there is a very real chance of war.

On Tuesday the Tigers said they were still committed to the country's 2002 ceasefire.

The statement was delivered to Norwegian mediators in response to questions that Norway had asked after talks collapsed in Oslo earlier this month.

The truce has disintegrated over the last six months, with daily violations and escalating violence.

A bus bombing last Thursday, in which at least 64 people were killed, began the latest round of fighting. The rebels denied carrying out the attack.

The government says it wants to engage the Tigers in talks and address the root causes of the conflict.

It said the discussions could be with or without the Norwegian facilitators who brokered the truce.

The rebels have been fighting for an independent Tamil homeland for over two decades. More than 60,000 people have died.


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