US ambassador wounded in Sri Lanka; near miss for Cheney in Afghanistan

The US and Italian ambassadors to Sri Lanka, Robert Blake and Pio Mariani, were slightly injured in an artillery attack by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on an air force base at Batticaloa, in the island’s east Feb. 27. The LTTE expressed “shock and sadness” at the wounding of the diplomats, but said the government was to blame for not informing the rebels the envoys would be in the area. Sri Lankan military aircraft bombed “identified LTTE bases” in the Batticaloa district after the attack. The LTTE said a civilian teacher was killed and another wounded in the raids. (Bloomberg, Feb. 27) Meanwhile in Afghanistan, Vice President Dick Cheney was reportedly unhurt when Bagram air base came under attack during his visit to the base, also early Feb. 27. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the apparent suicide blast at the base’s front gate, which killed two US soldiers and over 20 Afghans. Cheney is in the region to discuss resurgent Taliban/al-Qaeda activity with the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan. (Bloomberg, AP, Feb. 27)

Pakistan, which initially responded testily to Cheney’s demands with an official statement that it would not take “dictations,” has since clarified that it will take “whatever action is necessary” to prevent the Taliban from launching attacks into Afghanistan. The Foreign Ministry clarification, issued shortly after the initial statement Feb. 26, said: “Pakistan is determined to continue its fight against terrorism, in particular against al-Qaeda. We are equally determined to curb Taliban militancy and Talibanisation in the tribal areas.” (The Hindu, Feb. 28)

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