Unidentified gunmen shot dead Tamil legislator Joseph Pararajasingham, 71, during the midnight Christmas mass at a church in Sri Lanka's east, the police said today.
The attackers fired at him at close range while he was at the St Michael's church at Batticaloa, 303 kilometres east of the capital Colombo, the police said, adding that the politician's wife escaped with injuries.
They said at least eight others were injured.
Pararajasingham's bodyguards too had opened fire, the police said.
Parajasingham became a member of parliament in 1990, succeeding Sam Thambimuttu who was gunned down by suspected Tamil Tiger rebels. However, Pararajasingham represented the Tamil National Alliance, which is seen as a proxy of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. A breakaway faction of the Tigers is opposed to the TNA.
UNI adds: The Eastern Batticaloa and Amparai districts of Sri Lanka have turned into a crime field for the past so many months due to internecine killings between the mainstream LTTE cadres and those loyal to the renegade rebel commander V Muralitharan, well-known as 'Colonel' Karuna.
Many fear a return to a two-decade-old civil war after a string of breaches of a 2002 ceasefire culminating in a suspected Tiger ambush that killed 13 sailors on Friday, a Reuters report said. No one suggests it was the LTTE who gunned down Pararajasingham. While the rebels have no official link to the TNA, they meet frequently to discuss policy and the Tigers back them in parliamentary elections.
The police said it was unclear who was behind the killing but the rebels say the government backs Karuna, while truce monitors say the government at least turns a blind eye to him, the report added.
In the northern army-held city of Jaffna, scene of several recent attacks and clashes between troops and crowds the military says are incited by the rebels, some churches cancelled Christmas services as residents feared the conflict that has already killed more than 64,000 might quickly re-ignite.