Gunmen opened fire and torched the office of the main Tamil newspaper in northern Sri Lanka yesterday, the latest in a string of attacks on the nation's privately owned media.
Three men staged the arson attack on the Uthayan newspaper's office and printing press in Jaffna, the main city in Sri Lanka's former civil war zone in the north, owner Eswarapatham Saravanapavan said.
"Employees preparing to deliver the morning newspaper fled as the gunmen stormed in," he said. There were no injuries but the printing press was destroyed, he added.
Police said a senior officer was heading an investigation into the attack, which occurred on the eve of the traditional Sinhala and Tamil new year. "The attackers opened fire and carried out the arson attack," police spokesman Buddhika Siriwardena said.
The newspaper owner, who is also an opposition Tamil National Alliance legislator, said it was the second strike on the publication this month and added the assailants had to be from "either the government or para-militaries".
He asked: "Who else can carry firearms freely in Jaffna?"
Sri Lanka lifted emergency rule in 2011 after the military crushed Tamil separatists two years earlier following a decades-long ethnic civil war.
But troops are still deployed in Jaffna, 400 kilometres north of Colombo, and other parts of the country to support the police.
The military denied any involvement in the attack. At the same time, military spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya also played down the damage caused to the printing press, saying it was "not excessive".
The Uthayan strongly rejected the military's assessment and released photos of the damage.