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Rebels Deny Role in Sri Lanka Bombing - 2004-07-08

The Tamil Tiger rebels are denying any role in a suicide bombing that rocked Sri Lanka's capital and raised worries about the fragile peace process. The rebels say they are committed to abiding by a truce signed in 2002.

Tamil Tiger rebels strongly condemned the bombing, which killed four police officials and a woman who detonated the explosives inside a police station in Colombo. They say the attack Wednesday may have been conducted by what they called "anti-peace elements."

Earlier, President Chandrika Kumaratunga said she will not allow the bombing to derail Sri Lanka's peace process, and that the rebels have denied involvement. She said the rebels have pledged to honor a ceasefire in place since February 2002.

Suspicion fell on the Tigers because they have staged numerous suicide attacks during their two-decade struggle for a separate Tamil homeland. Officials had said the target of the attack was a Tamil minister who opposes the rebels.

Political analyst Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu at Colombo's Center for Policy Alternatives says the incident will strain the peace process, but will not destroy it.

"They still do not want to resort to hostilities," he says. "But at the same time the problem has always been as to whether that also means they will not resort to acts of violence which will seek to exercise leverage on each other."

Tensions between the rebels and the government have heightened in recent months because the Tamil Tigers think the military supports a renegade rebel commander. The government denies the charge. In a statement, the Tigers suggested Wednesday's bombing may have been the work of the breakaway rebel group.

Jehan Perera, a political analyst with the National Peace Council, says the attack has heightened tensions and fear in Colombo. "There is bound to be fallout from it. For instance, the government is bound to now increase the level of security preparedness in Colombo," he says. "The checkpoints that we saw removed two and a half years ago are now likely to come back."

The attack also made investors jittery. The country's economy has revived since the truce began, but the international community remains worried because the two sides have not revived peace talks, which have been on hold for more than a year.