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ri Lankan government minister was killed


Written on 11:34 PM by yahoo

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (CNN) -- A Sri Lankan government minister was killed Tuesday after a roadside bomb struck his convoy, police said. Five others were injured.

D.M. Dassanayake, a non-cabinet minister for nation building, died at a hospital following the explosion in Ja-ela, a suburb between the capital Colombo and the island's international airport.

Police said Tamil rebels were behind the attack. If so, the assault is the latest salvo in the intensifying violence between the two sides since the government announced last week that it was walking away from a nearly six-year long truce.

The government claims it has killed at least 60 rebels in the last six days. The numbers are difficult to verify because both sides tend to exaggerate the casualty count. The government also does not allow media access to the areas where they are fighting the rebels unless it is on guided tours.

Sri Lanka's decision to pull out of an internationally brokered peace agreement goes into effect January 16. By the agreement's terms, each side was required to give two weeks' notice if either planned on withdrawing.

Even before the announcement, the cease-fire -- brokered by Norway in 2002 -- had existed in name only because the two sides had resumed fighting two years ago.

Sri Lanka's armed forces commanders declared on New Year's Eve that they would crush the rebels this year. They claimed that the rebels had violated the agreement repeatedly, rendering it "non-functioning."

The two sides have engaged in a brutal civil war since 1983. The rebels, formally called the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, want an independent homeland for the Tamil minority in the north and east of the island-nation, located south of India. They cite decades of discrimination by the majority Sinhalese.

About 65,000 people died before the two sides reached the 2002 truce.

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