US and Italian ambassadors injured by Tiger attack

By Walter Jayawardhana


The US ambassador in Sri Lanka Robert Blake and his Italian counter part Pio Mariani escaped with “slight” injuries when terrorists of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam attacked them when the helicopter they were traveling in a goodwill mission landed in the Eastern town of Batticaloa.

The mortar attack is considered the first time any foreign ambassador has been attack by Tamil Tigers in the country’s two decades old Tamil insurgency.

Last week the Tamil Tigers blamed the Western nations for trying to find out a solution for the Sri Lankan problem within the parameters of Sri Lanka’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. Rejecting the ceasefire, they said they would start the war to carve out a separate state for them.

A Sri Lanka government Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe who traveled with them said the ambassadors were injured when the mortars landed close to the helicopters they were traveling after the aircraft landed in Batticaloa, a main town in the country’s Eastern Province.

The Italian ambassador was immediately removed to the Batticaloa teaching hospital and Minister Samarasinghe said the injuries were slight. But the extent of the injuries were not explained immediately.

The Ministry of Defense said the attempt came from the Tamil Tigers whose terrorist group is banned in the United States and European Union.

Last week the the Tamil Tigers blamed the Western nations for seeking a solution for Sri Lanka restricted by concerns for Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. They vowed to fight to carve out a separate state from Sri Lanka.

The two ambassadors, accompanied by their staff and Sri Lankan officials, had traveled Tuesday morning to Batticaloa aboard two helicopters to attend a meeting about the development of the area, a hotbed of separatist violence.

“As their choppers landed mortars were fired by the Tigers,” said Lt. Col. Upali Rajapakse, a senior officer the Defense Ministry’s information section.

He said the diplomats had already gotten out of the helicopters when the mortars were fired. It was not immediately known how they sustained their injuries.

Seven Sri Lankan security personnel who were on the ground were also wounded, Rajapakse said.

Despite the attack the planned meeting started with all the ambassadors attending, Army spokesman Prasad Samarasinghe said. The army has identified the areas the attack came he said. It’s an area controlled by the Tamil Tigers, he said.

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Posted on February 27, 2007, in Sri Lanka and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on US and Italian ambassadors injured by Tiger attack.

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