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Last Updated: Monday, 10 March 2008, 14:33 GMT
Key local polls held in Sri Lanka
Voters in a suburb of Batticaloa
Voters in a suburb of Batticaloa
People in parts of eastern Sri Lanka have voted in key local elections.

They were taking place in areas that were held by the Tamil Tiger rebels for more than a decade, until they were taken by government forces last year.

A party of former Tamil Tiger rebels who switched sides is expected to win. It has not laid down its arms.

Separately, one person was killed in a bombing in the capital, Colombo, on Monday, police and the military said. Officials blamed the rebels.

High security

Thousands of police and commandos were deployed in Batticaloa district in eastern Sri Lanka for the local elections. There were no reports of violence


In rural parts of Batticaloa district people rode bicycles to vote past bombed out houses and mine fields, reminders of the fighting that ended in July.

It was the first local election for 14 years in areas that used to be held by the Tamil Tigers. At stake is control of the municipal council and local authorities in the villages.

The party that expects to win is Tamileela Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal party (TMVP), a faction that broke away from the Tamil Tigers in 2004.

They then turned on their former comrades and helped government forces to drive them from the east.

The TMVP has been accused of recruiting child soldiers, abductions and killings, and they still have not given up their guns.

The TMVP president, who goes by his nom de guerre of Pillaiyan, told reporters that his group still has guns for security.

He also admitted that there were 30-40 former Tamil Tiger child soldiers still in his ranks. He said that livelihoods had to be found for them before they could leave his group.

The island's main opposition party is boycotting the elections in protest.

Dry run

For Sri Lanka's government this process has an importance beyond a mere local poll.

The BBC's Roland Buerk in Batticaloa says Monday's polls are a dry run for a province-wide election expected later that officials hope will lay a framework to help end the island's long-running conflict.

The government's plan is to militarily defeat the separatist rebels in the north where they still control territory.

Then there would be limited devolution of power to provincial councils which the ethnic Singhalese-led government bills as its answer to the minority Tamil's demands for more autonomy.

In January the government pulled out of a formal commitment to a 2002 ceasefire with the Tamil Tigers, arguing the rebels had used it to re-group and re-arm.

Since then, fighting has intensified on the frontlines that surround Tiger-held territory in the north.

Sri Lanka's army commander Lt-Gen Sarath Fonseka has said that he aims to defeat the rebels by the end of 2008.

The TMVP president casts his vote

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