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Tamils Protest in Sydney

Demonstrators have gathered in Australia's largest city to support Sri Lanka's ethnic Tamils. Activists claim that Tamils have suffered persecution and mass killings at the hands of the Sri Lankan military. The conflict in Sri Lanka is also thought to have sparked violence in Australia between a pro-Tamil group and supporters of Sri Lanka's Sinhalese government.

Security has been tight in Sydney as pro-Tamil demonstrators rallied in the city center.

Many directed their anger towards the Sri Lankan military, accusing it of committing war crimes in their campaign against Tamil separatists.

Speakers from various political, cultural and human rights groups were also invited to speak. Many denounced what they described as the "carnage" and "genocide" inflicted by government forces during their defeat of Tamil Tiger separatists.

The protests follow a week of tension between ethnic Tamil and Sinhalese communities in Australia.

On Wednesday two Sinhalese men were doused with acid when a gang broke into their home in Sydney. Police officials believe the violence was linked to the conflict in Sri Lanka.

The attack followed several brawls in Sydney believed to have involved members of the expatriate Tamil and Sinhalese communities. Five people were arrested.

In a display of unity, expatriate Tamil and Sinhalese leaders joined Australian police this week to denounce the violence.

Dr. Ruwan Walpola, the president of the Sri Lankan Association of New South Wales, says he deplores the recent assaults.

"I think it is deplorable that something should have happened in a country like Australia," said Dr. Walpola. "We have been all living in peace in this country and this sort of thing should not happen in a place like this. As to why this suddenly has erupted is quite unimaginable, why it should happen."

Tamil groups have held a series of noisy, but peaceful, rallies in Australia in recent weeks to highlight the plight of their community back home in Sri Lanka. They have staged protests outside Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's official residence at Kirribilli House in Sydney, as well as the U.S. and British embassies in the capital, Canberra.

Pro-Tamil rallies have been held around the world, including in the Canadian city of Toronto and the French capital, Paris.