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Armed Men Attack Private Sri Lankan Broadcast Network


Witnesses and authorities in Sri Lanka say the facilities of a private broadcaster sustained heavy damage when it was attacked by a group of armed men.

Authorities say the attackers stormed the Maharaja network facilities early Tuesday outside the capital city of Colombo and destroyed the main control room with grenades, guns and other weapons. The attack knocked the network's three television and four radio stations off the air for several hours.

No one has claimed responsibility for Tuesday's attack.

Lawmakers have appeared on state-run media outlets in recent days and accused the network of favoring the Tamil captured the Tigers' administrative capital of Kilinochchi.

Media rights groups say journalists in Sri Lanka have been subjected to intimidation, including detention and assassination, as the 25-year civil war has intensified.

The government has condemned the attack on the Maharaja facilities, and President Mahinda Rajapakse has called for a thorough investigation.

The U.S. Embassy in Colombo has issued a statement deploring Tuesday's attack. The statement says a free press not subjected to violence or intimidation is "an essential component of democracy."

Tamil rebels have been fighting since 1983 to establish an independent homeland for members of the Tamil ethnic minority in the island nation's north and east. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.


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