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Last updated: 13 May, 2007 - Published 13:51 GMT
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Buddhist monk shot dead
Handungamuwe thero's body in the hospital (AP photo)
The monk has received death threats as he promoted communal harmony
A leading Buddhist monk, Handungamuwe Nandarathana thero, was shot dead in the eastern Sri Lankan town of Morawewa, Trincomalee.

The monk was shot dead by three unidentified assailants came in two motorcycles in front of Sri Pabbatharama Temple, Mahadivulweva, police said.

G Lalith Priyankara, who regularly drove the monk in the temple's motorcycle, told BBC Sinhala that he heard assailants spoke with the monk in Sinhala before shooting him.

Speaking in Sinhala

The monk spoke fluently in both Sinhala and Tamil languages.

The Viharadhipathi thero who was preparing to leave for a meeting at Sri Lanka Army camp in Thavulla, was reportedly expressed pleasure that they came to accompany him.

Handungamuwe Nadarathana thero has been closely associating with both Sinhala and Tamil communities and was a very popular religious leader in the region, residents said.

The thero who advocated a peaceful solution to the national question was keen to spread Buddhism into Tamil community.

No LTTE link

A former Sri Lanka Army officer, he has once ordained a Tamil boy who later disrobed.

Journalists say fear prevails in the area after the shooting.

Morawewa police have begun investigations.

Police spokesman, DIG Jayantha Wickramaratne, told BBC Sandeshaya that police could not find any evidence to accuse Tamil Tigers.

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