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Archive for Saturday, February 16, 2008

Attacks bring civil war to typically calm capital

February 16, 2008

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— As a raging civil war killed thousands in the country's northeast, Sri Lankans in Colombo and other southern cities shopped, held picnics and cheered their children at soccer matches.

Now a recent wave of bombings has brought the devastation of the civil war to the heart of the capital, and many are scared to leave their homes. The bombings blamed on Tamil Tiger rebels have ripped through passenger buses and a department store and killed half a high school baseball team in a packed train station.

The rebels, listed as a terror group by the United States and the European Union, have been fighting since 1983 for an independent homeland for minority Tamils in the north and east. For years, they were discriminated against by governments dominated by the Sinhalese majority.

The fighting, which has killed an estimated 70,000 people in this island nation in the Indian Ocean, largely ended after a 2002 cease-fire deal. But new violence erupted two years ago. In July, the government said it had driven the rebels from the east and turned its attention to the rebels' heartland in the north.

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