Sri Lankan security forces detain more than 900 people during search for suspected rebels
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) – Police and soldiers cordoned off five districts in the Sri Lankan capital and detained more than 900 people during door-to-door searches Saturday to track down Tamil Tiger rebels, police said.The detainees were taken for questioning after they failed to either produce their national identity cards or did not have a valid reason for staying in the capital, said Deputy Inspector General of Police P. Jayasundara.The crackdown in the five predominantly Tamil districts of Colombo comes amid a spike in violence that has threatened to plunge the country back into civil war. Forty-five soldiers have died this month in violence blamed on the rebels, who are seeking a homeland for the country’s 3.2 million ethnic Tamil minority.The Tigers were also blamed for several suicide attacks in Colombo before a cease-fire halted the country’s 19-year war in 2002. Police are worried about the possibility of new attacks amid rising tensions.”I saw soldiers waiting outside my home and then a group of policemen came and asked for my identity,” said Maheswari Nadesan, an ethnic Tamil homemaker. She said police left after checking her and her husband’s identity cards and ensuring that no one else was living in her home.Violence has worsened in the country since last month’s election of Sri Lanka’s new president, Mahinda Rajapakse, who campaigned on a promise to take a tough line in negotiations with the rebels. Rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran warned the Tamil Tigers would intensify their struggle if the Tamils’ grievances were not addressed.The escalating violence has prompted the Norwegian official who brokered the 2002 cease-fire, Erik Solheim, to urge the government and rebels to resume peace talks immediately. Six rounds of peace talks were held until 2004 when they broke down over rebel demands for autonomy.