Sri Lankan Journalist Slain

A prominent Tamil journalist whose articles favored the mainstream Tamil Tiger rebels (search) over a breakaway faction was fatally shot after he was seized by attackers at a restaurant in the capital, police and colleagues said Friday.

Dharmeratnam Sivaram (search), 46, a board member of the pro-rebel TamilNet Web site and a columnist for Sri Lanka's English newspaper Daily Mirror, was abducted at the restaurant late Thursday, the Web site reported.

His gagged body was found Friday with gunshot wounds to the head in a shrub near a lake, police officer Ashoka Gunasekara (search) said. A colleague and family members confirmed the identity of the body, which was gagged with a red-and-white napkin.

No one claimed responsibility for the killing.

Sivaram was Sri Lanka's best known Tamil Internet journalist and had been attacked and threatened in the past. In December, 2001, he was stabbed and beaten by a group of men at his office in the eastern city of Batticaloa. No arrests were made in the assault.

His TamilNet Web site became popular for its reporting on the Sri Lankan civil war and the continuing process to find a permanent solution since a 2002 cease-fire halted the fighting.

But the peace process has been complicated by an unprecedented split in the Tamil Tiger rebels that occurred in March 2004 when a former senior commander broke away with some 6,000 fighters, alleging that the mainstream faction discriminated against his eastern forces.

Although Sivaram was from the east and close to the breakaway faction's leader, Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan (search), his articles favored the mainstream group.

Amirthanathan Adaikkalanathan, a lawmaker for the pro-rebel Tamil National Alliance, said Sivaram's last article in the Tamil daily Virakesari was critical of Muralitharan, but couldn't say whether the breakaway faction was behind his killing. Scores of people have been slain in eastern Sri Lanka since the split.

Lalith Alahakoon, chief editor of the Daily Mirror, said Sivaram -- a columnist at the paper since its inception in 1996 -- was "a very outspoken person and he did it within the parameters of freedom of expression.

"I have to condemn the killing, whoever may be responsible. He had been a good political analyst and had had a huge audience," he said. "We have lost a good writer."