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India Vows to Halt Sri Lanka Violence; 150 Dead

October 08, 1987|RONE TEMPEST | Times Staff Writer

NEW DELHI — India warned Wednesday that it will use military force if necessary to halt a surge of violence by Tamil guerrillas in Sri Lanka that in two days has left more than 150 people dead, most of them Sinhalese Buddhists.

"We will use all the force at our command to preserve peace and communal harmony," a government spokesman said in New Delhi.

He said the Indian peacekeeping force on the island nation, about 11,000 soldiers and paramilitary personnel, has been reinforced and placed on alert in the northern and eastern provinces of Sri Lanka where the violence is concentrated.

The spokesman said that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the largest and strongest of the separatist groups on Sri Lanka, was responsible for much of the killing, including the massacre of about 40 people on a train Tuesday night and at least 20 on a bus Wednesday.

He accused the Tigers of attempting to undermine the July 29 agreement between India and Sri Lanka aimed at ending the ethnic war between Tamil separatists and the Sri Lankan government, which has gone on now for five years.

The agreement calls for the separatist groups to lay down their weapons in exchange for the establishment of a majority Tamil province that would connect the northern and eastern Tamil provinces. But only a token quantity of arms has been surrendered.

The latest round of violence was apparently sparked by the deaths Monday of 12 Tamil Tigers who committed suicide by swallowing cyanide capsules after their arrest Saturday. A Tamil spokesman in India said the men, including a senior commander, killed themselves rather than submit to torture by Sri Lankan authorities.

After the suicides, Tamil Tigers attacked and killed 13 Sri Lankan government officials, including eight soldiers and three policemen, according to a spokesman for the Sri Lankan government.

Then on Tuesday night, the Tigers reportedly stopped a passenger train bound for Colombo, the capital, from the eastern city of Batticaloa. According to reports from the area, at least 40 Sinhalese Buddhist passengers were taken off and shot.

Twenty or more Sinhalese passengers reportedly were ordered off a bus near Lahugala, south of Batticaloa, and shot.

In another incident, 38 Sinhalese were reportedly shot to death at Pullikuda, a fishing village north of Batticaloa. All 75 houses in the village were said to have been burned to the ground.

In an attack at Sagarapura, near Trincomalee, Tamils reportedly killed 30 more Sinhalese, among them at least 15 children.

In Batticaloa, 23 Sinhalese were stabbed or burned to death, according to a police official in the city.

The predominantly Hindu Tamils account for about 18% of the Sri Lankan population of 16 million. The Buddhist Sinhalese majority dominates political life.

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