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Two gunmen kill Sri Lankan politician
( 2003-06-16 10:51) (Agencies)

Suspected Tamil Tiger rebels killed a Tamil politician opposed to them Sunday, fueling tensions a day after the murder of another politician and an ocean battle between government and rebels forces.

Two alleged gunmen of the Liberation Tigers of Tamileelam shot Ponniah Ramachandran, a member of the Eelam Peoples Democratic Party, police said.

Ramachandran, 42, was a former rebel who renounced violence and joined the Sri Lankan political mainstream. His group rejects the rebels' radical stand on Tamil autonomy.

Also Sunday, a grenade exploded at a market in the Muslim-majority eastern Valachenai area, wounding four people. The motive behind the attack was not immediately known. Tamils and Muslims clashed in the area in June last year, said TamilNet, a Web site that reports on Tamil affairs.

On Saturday, a top Tamil politician who also opposed the Tamil Tigers was gunned down in the city of Jaffna. On the same day, a rebel ship suspected of carrying arms exploded and sank during a confrontation with the navy.

The incidents clouded prospects for a resumption of peace talks. The government and rebels signed a cease-fire in February 2002 but rebels withdrew from negotiations in April, accusing the government of not doing enough to reconstruct war-ravaged areas and help resettle tens of thousand of displaced Tamils.

Tamil Tiger rebels often accuse Muslims of supporting the government. Both are minorities in Sri Lanka, where Sinhalese form the majority.

The rebels want more autonomy in areas where most of Sri Lanka's 3.2 million Tamils live, charging discrimination by the Sinhalese, who number 14 million.

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