Troops open fire on Tamils in church

Mannar, Sri Lanka - Sri Lankan forces, shooting indiscriminately, have stormed a church where hundreds of Tamils were taking shelter and also opened fire in the surrounding village, killing five people and wounding dozens.

The Government denied the accusation and blamed Tamil Tiger rebels; but several witnesses and an international aid worker said Sri Lankan forces were responsible. The island nation appeared to be stumbling even closer to all-out war.

In a Mannar hospital, many injured villagers gave nearly identical accounts of security forces shooting into the Our Lady of Victory Roman Catholic Church before opening fire in the village.

"We were all inside the church when the navy and army broke in and opened fire. A grenade was thrown inside through a window," said Mariyadas Loggu, 46, who was being treated for hand injuries.

The killings came hours after the Tigers had assaulted a navy base in the nearby remote northwestern fishing village of Pesalai, triggering a naval and helicopter battle that in turn prompted the Tamils to seek refuge in the church where they were attacked.

The past few days have seen the worst violence since an often-violated ceasefire was signed in 2002 by the Government and the Tamil Tigers, who control much of Sri Lanka's north and east.