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The attack exposed serious weaknesses in Sri Lanka“s defenses.

In April, a second air raid struck two oil facilities in the capital. The LTTE’s military spokesman, Rasaiah Ilanthirayan, promised further air attacks as long as government forces continued to attack Tamil areas.

Then on May 24, the Tigers launched an audacious raid on a naval base on the northern Jaffna peninsula which left at least 22 persons dead. Several bombs exploded near army targets in Colombo in the following days; one attack killed six civilians.

Western governments have long condemned the LTTE“s violent tactics.

But in recent months they have been increasingly appalled by atrocities carried out by paramilitaries linked to the government.

In early May, U.S. assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, Richard Boucher, said Washington was concerned by a spate of abductions and killings blamed on each side.

Human Rights Watch says that the Karuna group, with the approval of the military and police, has been carrying out horrifying abuses, from the recruitment of child soldiers to abductions and extortion.

In a camp for the displaced in Sitandhi, in Batticaloa district, 21-year-old Radikhela Vanarasa told of the day Karuna cadres came for her father. He was working as a cook in a Tamil Tigers camp to prevent his sons being forcibly recruited by the Tigers.

“The Karuna men came in the evening,” said Miss Vanarasa, her eyes downcast. “They said, ‘You are working for the LTTE” and chopped off his hands. They beat him, tortured him, removed his intestines.”

The government denies that it is using the Karuna group to attack the LTTE.

Earlier this month, the bodies of two Tamil Red Cross volunteers were found dumped outside the capital. The men had been taken away by men who identified themselves as policemen in Colombo. Mr. Rajapaksa’s office said the murders were an attempt to damage his government’s reputation.