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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 January 2007, 16:56 GMT
Sri Lanka raid 'kills civilians'
Injured boy arrives at hospital in Kilinochchi (photo from rebel website)
A number of children were killed or wounded, the rebels say (Photo from rebels)
At least 15 civilians have been killed in an air force raid in north-west Sri Lanka, Tamil Tiger rebels say.

Another 25 civilians were wounded in the attack on a fishing village north of Mannar, the rebels say. The military says it bombed a rebel naval position.

Bishop of Mannar Rayappu Joseph visited the scene of the bombing and said he saw no evidence of rebel activity.

Fighting has risen over the past year, with more than 3,000 people killed. A 2002 truce exists now only on paper.

'Civilian houses'

Bishop Joseph spoke to the BBC Tamil service after touring the village of Padahuthurai, which is in rebel-held territory, and visiting some of the wounded in hospital.

We carried out air raids on an identified Sea Tiger base north of Mannar
Group Captain Ajantha Silva

"I could not find any Tamil Tiger base in that vicinity. It was a small fishing community. The injured and killed were civilians," he said.

Rebel spokesman Rasaiah Ilanthirayan said four fighter jets had destroyed dozens of civilian houses.

"There are 15 dead bodies and 25 wounded from the bombing," he told Reuters news agency. Four of those killed were children, he said.

The rebels said the wounded were taken to hospitals in Mannar district.

Photographs on the rebels' website also showed injured children arriving for treatment in the rebel-held town of Kilinochchi.


The Red Cross helped transport injured civilians from the scene of the attack to hospital, a spokesman told the BBC.

Sri Lanka's military says photographs proved the area attacked was a base of the Sea Tigers, the rebels' naval wing.

Air force spokesman Group Captain Ajantha Silva said military aircraft had also targeted rebel mortar positions in eastern Batticaloa district.

"Our air force took two known Tiger targets this morning," he told a news conference.

He said it was impossible to accurately assess the damage after the bombing run near Mannar but he said that shortly after the attack rebels were heard on radio airwaves calling for doctors and vehicles to treat and evacuate their wounded.

'Human shields'

Civilians have been increasingly caught up in Sri Lanka's worsening conflict.

The military accuses the rebels of using them as human shields, a charge the Tamil Tigers reject.

Neither side has formally declared an end to the four-year-old ceasefire.

At least 3,400 people have been killed in the conflict in the past year, many of them civilians, the government says. More than 65,000 lives have been lost since 1972.

The rebels want independence for the 2.5m-strong minority Tamil community in the north and east of the country, who they say are discriminated against by majority Sinhalese.

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