Civil war within civil war

One of LTTE’s senior leaders and 6000 of his men have pulled out in what looks like the first major threat not only to Velupillai Prabhakaran’s leadership but to the LTTE itself. While it is good news that the LTTE is taking steps towards self-destruction, the next few weeks could be terrible in terms of human cost for Sri Lanka. Blurred battle lines can cause confusion and undermine the current ceasefire.

Muralitharan (alias Karuna) said he informed the Norwegian ambassador Hans Brattskar about possible fighting between his soldiers and the main insurgent army. Brattskar confirmed receiving the call but declined to give details.

“We have reliable information that killer squads sanctioned by the northern leadership have been sent with the intention of attacking me and my forces,” Muralitharan told The Associated Press by telephone.

In two eastern towns, scores of civilians loyal to Muralitharan staged demonstrations Sunday in protest against northern rebel leaders. Headless effigies of Prabhakaran and his intelligence chief were seen set ablaze.

Some students from the north who had been studying at universities in the east have returned home fearing an outbreak of faction fighting, college officials said. [AP/San Francisco Chronicle]