Bomb blast kills Sri Lanka priest

Wanni, Sri Lanka - A Roman Catholic priest and human rights activist has been killed by a roadside bomb in an area held by the Tamil Tiger rebels, reports say.

The Tamil Tigers say Reverend M X Karunaratnam died when government soldiers detonated the device as he was returning from a service in Wanni.

The military denied any involvement, blaming the rebels for the blast.

A rebel website says the priest played a key role in providing psychological support for those affected by the war.

He also worked with those affected by the 2004 tsunami and had worked with several international organisations concerned with human rights.


Military spokesman Brig Udaya Nanayakkara rejected the rebels' claims that government troops had played a part in the priest's death.

"We can't take responsibility for what's happening in areas not in our control," he told the Associated Press.

Earlier, the military said its jets had bombed three Tamil Tiger gunboats off the northern coast - but the rebels say only houses rebuilt after the tsunami and fishing boats had been destroyed.

The military also claimed 28 rebels and one government soldier had died in a day of intense fighting in Wanni on Friday.

Fighting in Sri Lanka has intensified since January, when the government pulled out of a formal ceasefire deal with Tamil Tiger rebels.

The government has vowed to crush the separatist rebels by the end of this year or the next.

The rebels want an independent state for Sri Lanka's Tamil minority.

At least 70,000 people have died since the war began in 1983.