Sri Lanka police seize 200 packets of explosives

Sri Lankan forces on Monday seized a large cache of explosives in the north of the island, police said, as rebels attacked an army vehicle with a mine in continuing violence that has left the nation poised on the brink of return to civil war.

There was no immediate report of casualties from the anti-personnel mine blast in the northern city of Jaffna, which missed an army vehicle, said Deputy Inspector General of Police, H.N.B. Ambanwela.

Separately in the town of Vavuniya, police found some 200 packets of explosives hidden in a van, said area police chief Gamini Silva.

"Experts are checking what type of explosives are these," Silva said declining to give any other details.

Spiraling violence last week claimed dozens of lives, among the militants, the military and Tamil civilians, adding to fears that a 2002 cease-fire between the government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam could collapse at any time, plunging the nation back into civil war.

More than 180 people have died in the stepped-up violence since the start of April, according to figures compiled by The Associated Press, jeopardizing efforts by Norwegian mediators to restart the peace process.

More than a dozen people died in battles in the north and east of the island nation over the weekend, including eight who died late Saturday in disputed circumstances.

The family, including a 4-month-old baby, a 4-year-old boy and their parents, were gunned down in their home in the village of Allaipiddy on the northern Jaffna peninsula, according to local residents who spoke on condition of anonymity because of fears of retribution.

TamilNet claimed that navy forces surrounded the house and opened fire. But the government denied any military involvement and blamed the killings on the Tigers, saying in a statement they were attempting to "divert international opinion,"reports the AP.

I.L.