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The BBC's Susannah Price in Colombo
"Residents said they heard bangs and shots"
 real 28k

Suzannah Price reports
"Soldiers spent the night surrounding the building"
 real 28k

Saturday, 11 March, 2000, 05:16 GMT
Tamil rebels commit suicide

Troops search for guerrillas after Friday's shootout
Four Tamil Tiger rebels blew themselves up after being surrounded by government forces, Sri Lankan officials say.

Four soldiers were injured in the siege in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, which followed an unsuccessful guerrilla attack on a government motorcade.

Hundreds of troops surrounded an apartment complex in Colombo where a group of suspected Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) guerrillas had hidden after staging bombings and a shooting spree on Friday.

Conflict in Sri Lanka
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  • As troops tried to flush them out with tear gas, the rebels fired rocket-propelled grenades from the fourth floor of the building, according to officials.

    Several casualties were reported among troops and civilians.

    Then, early on Saturday, explosions were heard in the area. Police said four rebels had blown themselves up.

    Residents of the apartment complex said they could see the mutilated remains of two rebels who had died in the blast.

    Suicide bombing

    Parts of the capital were cordoned off as police, aided by anti-terrorist commandos, searched for those responsible for an attack on the route to the national parliament building.

    The government said the fighting broke out when two policemen approached a man reported to be carrying automatic weapons.

    Soldiers try to defuse explosives strapped to a guerrilla's body
    The gunmen opened fire and one suicide bomber blew herself up.

    Armed police and soldiers rushed to the area and exchanged fire with the Tigers, who were armed with rocket-propelled grenades.

    At least 12 civilians, many of them trapped in their cars in a traffic jam, were killed in the crossfire.

    At least 22 people were killed and more than 50 wounded.

    Police said the attackers may have been lying in wait for Deputy Defence Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte, who had been due to take that route after a parliamentary debate.

    One of the minister's advance security vehicles was hit by a grenade. The minister, who was not in the vicinity at the time of the attack, has been co-ordinating the war against the Tigers.

    Suicide bombers

    Previous attacks in the capital have been blamed on the LTTE, who are fighting for independence in the north-east of the island.

    The group has been accused of several suicide attacks against politicians and the military.

    president Kumaratunga
    The president's eye was injured in an attack in December
    In January, a woman suicide bomber detonated explosives strapped to her body outside the prime minister's office, killing at least eight people.

    The previous month, President Chandrika Kumaratunga narrowly escaped assassination when a suicide bomber attacked a meeting she was holding.

    A total of 26 people attending the meeting were killed, but she escaped with a wound to her right eye.

    Peace efforts

    The latest attack came amid efforts to organise peace talks between the government and Tamil Tiger rebels, with Norwegian mediation.

    President Kumaratunga held a meeting this week with the main opposition leader, Ranil Wickramesinghe, to discuss a proposed package which would allow more autonomy for Tamil areas of the country.

    It is hoped that, once there is cross-party agreement, the Tamil Tigers can be persuaded to consider the package.

    Over 55,000 people have been killed in the civil war over the past two decades.

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    21 Feb 00 | South Asia
    Sri Lanka peace meeting hits snag
    18 Dec 99 | South Asia
    Analysis: Fifteen years of bloodshed
    23 Feb 00 | South Asia
    What chance peace in Sri Lanka?
    28 Feb 00 | South Asia
    Tigers release four captives
    15 Feb 00 | South Asia
    Fighting overshadows peace mission
    01 Jan 00 | South Asia
    Fighting escalates in Sri Lanka
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