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Last Updated: Sunday, 25 December 2005, 01:36 GMT
Gunmen kill Sri Lankan politician
Unidentified gunmen have shot dead a pro-Tamil Tiger politician at a Christmas Midnight Mass in Sri Lanka.

Joseph Pararajasingham, 71, was shot at close range at St Michael's Church in Batticaloa, 300km (189 miles) east of the capital, Colombo.

At least eight other people, including his wife, were injured in the shooting in the crowded church, police said.

The attack comes amid escalating tensions in Sri Lanka, although the motive for the killing is unclear.

Mr Pararajasingham represented the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) party in parliament.

The TNA is linked to the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which split in March 2004.

Proxy war

The killing has heightened fears of a return to civil war in Sri Lanka, following a recent upsurge in violence - the worst since a ceasefire was declared in 2002.

Analysts say this killing appears to be in retaliation for the latest attacks, the BBC's Dumeetha Luthra in Galle says.

No-one has yet claimed responsibility but the Tigers have been involved in low level clashes with a breakaway faction of the rebels led by Colonel Karuna, she says.

A proxy war has been going on since the split, our correspondent adds. The Tigers accuse the government of backing the breakaway faction.

In the latest flare-up, five people, including a soldier, were killed in clashes between suspected rebels and the military in the northern Jaffna region.

Faltering truce

Earlier on Saturday, an emergency meeting between the main foreign backers of Sri Lanka's peace process and Tamil Tiger rebels ended without a breakthrough.

Envoys from Japan, Norway, the EU and the US met the Tamil Tigers' political head, SP Thamilselvan, in the northern rebel stronghold of Kilinochchi.

Hagrup Haukland, head of the Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission
The head of the monitoring mission said the ceasefire was in jeopardy

The pro-Tiger website which reported the meeting said the diplomats had urged the rebels to start talks on the faltering truce.

It said the diplomats expressed concern "over the escalating violence and the necessity to start talks on effective implementation of the ceasefire agreement".

But Mr Thamilselvan is said to have told the delegation that the rebels had no control over the violence, as well as refusing to compromise on the venue for peace talks.

International donors and foreign truce monitors have said the sharp upsurge in violence, following the election of Mahinda Rajapakse as Sri Lanka's president in November, has left the ceasefire under grave threat.

"The ceasefire agreement is in jeopardy, absolutely," Hagrup Haukland, the head of the Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission, is quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.

The Tamil Tigers have been fighting for a fully-independent ethnic homeland since 1983.


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