Suicide blast kills 10 in Sri Lanka | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 17, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, May 17, 2008

Suicide blast kills 10 in Sri Lanka

A suicide bomber on a motorcycle rammed into a bus carrying riot police in Sri Lanka's capital yesterday, killing 10 people, including eight policemen, and wounding 85 others.
The blast came hours after air force fighter jets bombed a Tamil Tiger rebel base in the northern jungles, where 27 guerrillas and two government soldiers were killed in heavy fighting Thursday, according to the military.
Military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara, blaming the separatist guerrillas, said a suicide bomber on a motorcycle triggered the blast as he slammed into a bus carrying policemen on a busy Colombo street.
The bomb ripped through the side of the bus, shattering windows and damaging a dozen other vehicles. Located near the president's office and military headquarters, the blast area is considered a high-security zone.
Dr. Anil Jasinghe of the Colombo National Hospital said 10 people died.
"Eight were already dead when they were brought to hospital and two policemen succumbed after admission. About 85 people are being treated now," he said.
The blast was the first suicide attack since a bomber killed 14 people, including a government minister and a former Olympian, at the start of a marathon April 6.
If the attack was carried out by the rebels, it would show they retain the ability to strike deep inside government territory despite a maze of security checkpoints around the capital and military efforts to crush the group.
There was no immediate comment from the LTTE on the bombing, although the pro-rebel TamilNet.com website said it targetted police travelling to provide security for the swearing-in ceremony.
Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan did not answer calls from The Associated Press seeking comment, but the Tamil Tigers routinely deny responsibility for such attacks. The group, blamed for more than 240 suicide strikes, is listed as a terrorist organisation by the United States and European Union.
It was not possible to independently verify the military's claims because reporters are not allowed in the war zone. The two sides are known to exaggerate their enemies' casualties while underreporting their own.
The government pulled out of a Norwegian-brokered truce in January, and has claimed to have inflicted massive casualties on the rebels so far this year.
Rajapakse's government was scheduled later Friday to swear in the winners of last weekend's key council elections in the east of the island, which were won by the president's ruling coalition and an allied party made up of LTTE defectors.
The polls were heralded by the government as a sign they were establishing firm control over the multi-ethnic east, which prior to heavy fighting last year was home to several LTTE enclaves.
The island's opposition, however, has contested the polls as marred by intimidation and ballot box stuffing by the Tamil Tiger defectors, known as the Tamil People's Liberation Tigers (TMVP).
Earlier this week Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake ruled out returning to a ceasefire with the LTTE, and said "victory is within the grasp of our heroic security forces."
Wickremanayake also said Tiger rebel chief Velupillai Prabhakaran's days were "numbered."
Colombo has poured a record 1.5 billion dollars into the war effort this year, hoping for a quick end to a conflict that has left tens of thousands dead since 1972.
The rebels are fighting to carve out a separate Tamil homeland in the north and east of the ethnic Sinhalese-majority island, and frequently deploy what they call "Black Tigers" -- members of a unit specifically trained for suicide missions.
Friday's bombing was the third major Tamil Tiger attack in just a week.
On the eve of the May 10 provincial elections, a bomb ripped through a crowded cafe in the eastern town of Ampara, killing 12 people and wounding at least 36.
And hours before polling started, an LTTE suicide diver sank a navy cargo ship docked at the eastern port of Trincomalee.
The Tamil Tigers have fought since 1983 to create an independent homeland for ethnic minority Tamils, who have been marginalized by successive governments controlled by the majority Sinhalese. More than 70,000 people have been killed.

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