Thursday, November 29, 2007

Tamil Tiger suicide bomber targets Tamil minister; another bomb kills 18 civilians in department store

NUGEGODA, Sri Lanka: Tamil Tiger rebels set off a powerful bomb at a popular Sri Lankan department store in a Colombo suburb Wednesday, the military said, killing 17 people in a rare attack targeting civilians near the nation's capital.

The blast, which came only hours after a suicide bomber tried to kill a Cabinet minister, showed the rebels remained capable of striking deep in government territory despite months of punishing military attacks on their power base in the north.

Fearing the bombings were only the first in a wave of attacks, officials decided to close all the schools in the Western Province — which includes Colombo — for the rest of the week, and security officers warned Sri Lankans to be on high alert.

"The general public should be extra vigilant about their surroundings especially in trains, buses, crowded areas and even in schools," police spokesman Jayantha Wickremarathna said.The explosion at the four-story No Limits department store in Nugegoda was set off after a security guard there became suspicious of a package left with him for safekeeping and called over a police officer. When they tried to open it, the package exploded, military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said.

The blast hit as commuters crowded a nearby bus stop during rush hour. It shattered the department store's windows and sent piles of crumbled concrete pouring onto the bloodstained sidewalk, according to an AP photographer at the scene. Twisted, charred parts of motorcycles and three-wheeled taxis were scattered nearby.

Police and firefighters dug through the rubble in a search for more bodies.

"I was on the top floor of a shoe shop with my wife and child when I heard a big blast and there were glass pieces all over us," local resident A. Jayasena told AP Television News. "As we ran away, I saw the entrance of the No Limit shop burning, and in the midst of it, a schoolgirl on the floor trying to get up and then falling back again."

Jayasena and his daughter suffered minor injuries, while his wife was in the hospital being treated for more serious wounds, he said.

At least 17 people were killed and dozens of others injured, the military said. Residents crowded a nearby hospital searching for missing relatives. One girl who suffered a broken arm in the attack sat with her mother as she received treatment.

"We know that the attack bears all the hallmarks of the LTTE. It is nobody else but the LTTE," Nanayakkara said, referring to the group by its formal name, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

The Tamil Tigers, listed as a terror organization by the United States and the European Union, have carried out more than 240 suicide bombings and countless other attacks in their more than two decade war with the government.

Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan did not answer calls from The Associated Press seeking comment Wednesday evening.

The rebels have previously killed civilians in attacks on economic targets, such as the central bank, and on religious shrines. However, in the past two years, rebel bombers had stopped targeting civilians, though they have ambushed military convoys amid crowds, causing many civilian deaths.

On Wednesday morning, a handicapped suicide bomber sent by the rebels blew herself up at Sri Lanka's social services ministry in the heart of Colombo in an unsuccessful attempt to kill a Cabinet minister, the military said.

The attack targeted the offices of Douglas Devananda, the minister of social services and the leader of the Eelam People's Democratic Party, an ethnic Tamil party considered a rival to the rebels, the military said.

Devananda, the target of repeated assassination attempts, was not injured, but the blast killed one of his staff members and injured two others, military officials said. The bomber was also killed.

Ilanthirayan, the rebel spokesman, said at the time that he was unaware of the blast.

The attacks came months after the government drove the Tamil Tigers out of eastern Sri Lanka and amid escalating fighting between the military and rebel fighters on the fringes of the rebels' de facto state in the north.

It also came a day after 22 civilians — including 11 schoolchildren — were killed in separate attacks inside rebel-controlled territory, the rebels said. The Tamil Tigers blamed the military, which denied responsibility for the roadside bombing that killed the children.

"This is a fabricated story. We think that by doing so, they were preparing the ground for an attack in the south," said Lakshman Hulugalle, director general of the government's Media Center for National Security.

The Tamil Tigers have been fighting since 1983 to create a separate homeland for Sri Lanka's minority ethnic Tamils following decades of discrimination by governments controlled by the Sinhalese majority. The fighting has killed an estimated 70,000 people.

The military also said it killed one rebel in an attack Wednesday on a Tamil Tiger bunker in the north.

Krishan Francis, Associated Press


  1. "following decades of discrimination by governments controlled by the Sinhalese majority."

    What a joke. Why do you even bother posting such obviously inaccurate statements? Till 1980, 30% of the civil service comprised of Tamils - 12% of the population. You call that discrimination?

    Tamils have all the rights like a Sinhalese person - more so, because they enjoy freedoms in the North that no Sinhalese can. No govt. has done more for Tamils than JR's - with his '77 constitution, 13th amendment, or even the Indo-Lanka peace accord. It's a pity this Francis has his head buried in the sand, and that AFP actually employs such inept journalists. Possibly the worst thing is that Mawbima has decided to carry such an article.

  2. After Eastern polls go to a referandom asking for a island wide clear mandate {U will get 75% } to erradicate all forms of exploitations .This was there in the 1972 constitution but there were lot of loop holes , If this goal is achived every political party has to come to a compromize with the executive.After trhis the following day house could be dissolved............wikiribandi