Sri Lanka's military on Friday accused Tamil Tiger rebels of murdering nine civilians in the island's south as violence between the two sides escalated after the formal end of a ceasefire.
The army said nine villagers died in separate attacks in the south, suggesting the rebels were again extending their operations further afield than along frontlines in the north and around the capital Colombo.
"We found bodies of six villagers in Hampegamuwa, near Thanamalwila this morning. The bodies are being identified, we believe they were killed on Thursday night," military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said.
The military said it also found the bodies of three villagers in the same area.
"In pursuit for its ethnically pure homeland, the terrorists have butchered thousands of innocent civilians in similar night raids at civilian villages," the ministry said.
Both the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the ethnic-Sinhalese Sri Lankan armed forces have been accused of murdering civilians during the decades-old ethnic war.
Earlier this week, suspected rebels set off a roadside bomb killing 27 villagers on a bus and injuring over 60.
The pro-rebel website TamilNet said one civilian was killed and seven injured when Sri Lanka warplanes bombed the rebel-held town of Kilinochchi on Thursday, although the army said it hit a gathering of rebel leaders.
The killings came after a truce, signed by the LTTE and the government in 2002, officially ended at midnight on Wednesday.
The Sri Lankan government pulled out of the Norwegian-brokered ceasefire arguing that the Tigers, who want to carve out an independent state in the north and east of the island, had only used the truce to re-arm. (AFP)
Tamil Tigers murder nine civilians: Sri Lanka military