October 30, 1995
Web posted at: 2:30 p.m. EST (1930 GMT)
From Correspondent Jackie Shymanski and wire reports
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (CNN) -- It seems like paradise on Earth -- sunshine, sand and soft waves rolling in from the Indian Ocean -- but the island of Sri Lanka, off the southeastern coast of India, is home to one of the world's most brutal conflicts.
On the relatively safe shoreline of southern Sri Lanka, resort life offers tourists a protective cloak against a long-running civil war. (85K AIFF sound or 85K WAV sound), (77K AIFF sound or 77K WAV sound)
The Sri Lankan government wants to keep it that way, despite intense fighting in the northern part of the country. Since 1983, government forces have battled the rebel Tamil Tigers -- the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. A new offensive, Operation Sunshine, may finally end the rebels' fight to create an ethnic Tamil homeland in northeastern Sri Lanka. In a major breakthrough, government forces are moving in on the rebel stronghold of Jaffna. On Monday, the military reported at least 132 rebels killed and 41 government soldiers lost in two recent battles.
A senior Sri Lankan official said government troops should control Jaffna within a week. But battlefield gains may threaten stability in the rest of the country. Tamil rebels recently blew up several oil tankers in Colombo, the capital. Rebels also are blamed for the massacre last week of 90 villagers, many of them women and children. In fact, after years of conflict, both sides are accused of such brutality.
"It's a bitter, cruel war that's claimed 50,000 lives," said Neelan Tiruchelvan of the International Center for Ethnic Studies. "Over one million people have been displaced and another half million have left as refugees."
The Sri Lankan government has set terms for a cease fire but they are conditions the rebels are almost certain to refuse. So despite what appears to be paradise around them, Sri Lankans prepare for more war.
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