4TH LEAD (CORRECTION: DEATH TOLL 5)

Muslims shot dead in revenge by paramilitary after the killing of key operative

[TamilNet, Thursday, 22 May 2008, 10:30 GMT]
Following the killing of a key paramilitary operative Shanthan and his associate of the TMVP Pillayan Group in the Muslim town of Kaaththaankudi around 11:40 a.m. Thursday, gunmen from the paramilitary group opened fire on Muslim travelers in the pre-dominant Tamil village Aaraiyampathi, 1.5 km south of the Muslim town, killing three Muslims, Police said. Four persons, including two Sinhalese were wounded. Tension prevails in Kaaththaankudi and Araiyampathi. Sri Lankan police and Special Task Force commandos have been deployed in the area. A local curfew was imposed and additional forces were sent to the border village, Police said.

People were seen with swords and knifes in the area, eyewitnesses said.

Shanthan, 39, (K. Sasitharan) was on his way from Batticaloa to Aaraiyampathi via Kaaththaankudi in a motorbike with his associate Tharshan (Parasuraman), according to the paramilitary group. They were unarmed when they were blocked by armed men, shot and killed, the group said. Shanthan and his associate Tharshan were gunned down by gunmen carrying T-56 assault rifle in the heart of the Muslim town near the bus stand.

The TMVP group alleged that the Muslims were responsible for the slaying of its key operative, Shanthan, who was opposed by Muslims in Kaaththaankudi following his involvement in the land dispute between the two communities.

The violence also comes after the controversy between sections of the Muslims and the TMVP who were used by the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to gain maximum votes in the Eastern Provincial Council elections.

Following the slaying of Shanthan, around 1:20 p.m., the paramilitary personnel in Aaraiyamapathi opened fire on Muslim travelers in the Tamil village, where Shanthan was in charge of the group's public affairs. 3 Muslims were killed, medical sources said.

Shanthan's wife, Christina, is the newly elected chairperson of the Aaraiyampathi Piratheasa Chapai (Pradeshya Sabah).

The shooting on Muslim civilians has taken place on the main road 50 meters near a STF camp close to which a paramilitary installation is located. Muslims were also attacked in a bylane in the vicinity.

One of the Muslims shot dead, was a businessman, according to initial reports.

All the shops were closed in Kaaththaankudi and the transport services have been canceled.


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