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Tamil Candidate for Parliament Wounded in Gunfire in Sri Lanka - 2004-03-27


In Sri Lanka, unidentified gunmen have shot and seriously wounded a Tamil candidate for parliament as violence flared in advance of next week's general elections.

The injured politician,T. Maheswaran, who had served as minister for Hindu Affairs in the government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, was gunned down on Saturday after attending an election rally in the capital, Colombo.

His bodyguards returned the fire but there were no arrests and no claims of responsibility.

In a separate incident, another Tamil official, who served as an assistant election commissioner, was shot and wounded as he drove his car in a village near the eastern town of Batticaloa. His condition was described as critical.

The latest shooting was the third apparently targeting Tamils. An earlier shooting was linked by police to a rift within the rebel Tamil Tigers between a breakaway regional commander and the group's main leadership.

The Tigers warned Friday that they were preparing to get rid of the regional commander V. Muralitharan, who goes by the name Karuna, and it asked Tamils not to support him.

Next week's elections were called by Sri Lanka's President Chandrika Kumaratunga in an effort to end an impasse with the prime minister over efforts to negotiate a peaceful settlement of the island nation's three-decades long ethnic war. She has accused the prime minister of making too many concessions.

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