Marapana-Hakeem in pow-wow to resolve Muttur strife
Five die in Thoppur clashes despite curfew

By Rohan Mathes and Norman Palihawardena
As tension mounted even after the Police clamped a curfew in Thoppur, Muttur last night, following the LTTE attack which killed four Muslims and wounded six others, Defence Minister Tilak Marapana yesterday flew to Muttur and held discussions with SLMC leader Minister Rauf Hakeem at the Muttur Army Camp.

Another Muslim was reported killed in the early hours of yesterday while clashes continued despite the curfew, bringing the number of Muslims killed to five.

Hundreds of Tamils and Muslims converged around the Army Camp as Defence Minister Marapana flew in.

SLMM spokesman Tokelsson said that nine Muslims and three Tamils were reported wounded while a 60-year-old Tamil man had gone missing. "There had been no electricity yesterday night when the clashes had continued", he said.

Asked whether the LTTE was responsible for launching the attack, Tokelsson said, I don’t have that information but I will check it from Trincomalee.

Tokelsson claimed that angry Muslims had attacked Tamil shops and houses around midnight on Thursday despite the curfew. The Tamils in retaliation have reportedly set upon Muslim houses and shops in the early hours of yesterday.

Meanwhile, Tokelsson said that the SLMM was trying to arrange a meeting between the LTTE and Muslim representatives.

However, according to latest reports, the tensed situation is supposedly calming down after the Friday prayers.

The curfew has been re-imposed from 2.00 p.m.

Muslim-Tamil clashes continued in Mutur following the killing of four Muslims by the LTTE on Thursday night and over 50 houses had been set ablaze by the two factions at Thoppur, Mutur police said.

Thirty-five houses belonging to Muslim residents, 14 houses belonging to Tamil residents and five trade stalls were set on fire by gangsters.

The police curfew declared last Thursday (17) was lifted yesterday (18) morning. If it was needed the curfew would be re-enforced, police sources said.

The armed gang that shot at the Muslim residents were LTTE members, the Muslim residents claimed.

The clash between the armed gang and the Muslim residents in the area erupted last Thursday (17). The armed gang had shot at the Muslim residents and the Muslim residents had retaliated with stones and brickbats. Tear gas and shooting in the air by the police had brought the situation under control. Four Muslim residents were killed and six wounded in the shooting.

Additional police and army units have been deployed in the area to maintain law and order.

Police and army intelligence units have commenced investigations into the incident.

Meanwhile no information has been received regarding the two Muslim youths missing for the last few days.

Muslims claimed that the LTTE abducted the two youths and the LTTE has denied it.

A mother of one of the two abducted men committed suicide unable to bear the grief.

Mutur has been tense over the past few days following this abduction case and politicians in the ruling party have confronted each other over the responsibility of the security of Muslims in Mutur.

UNP (Trincomalee) parliamentarian M. Mahroof’s statement that the government cannot be held responsible for the security of Mutur Muslims angered SLMC leader and Minister Rauff Hakeem who flew to Mutur a few days ago.

Hakeem has insisted that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe should visit Mutur to resolve the crisis.

However, the Prime Minister has directed Hakeem to discuss the matter with him in Colombo.

While this tussle was dragging on Thursday, the LTTE launched an attack in Thoppur killing four Muslims and wounding six.

Over 300 Muslim families fled the area in fear and sought refuge in schools and mosques.