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Blast rips through Sri Lankan capital

©

Latest update : 2008-03-10

As voters in eastern Sri Lanka go to the polls in key local elections for the first time in 14 years, a bomb killed one person and injured six in the capital Colombo.

A powerful bomb ripped through a commercial area of Sri Lanka's capital Monday, killing one man and wounding six others, police said as troops and Tamil Tigers were locked in heavy combat elsewhere.
  
The improvised explosive device was hidden in a flower bed on the central median of the main Colombo-Galle highway, said military spokesman Udaya Nanayakkara.
  
"One person was killed and six others were wounded and taken to hospital," a police officer said, adding investigations showed the man who was blown to pieces had tried to touch the device.
  
A local hospital director said four of the wounded were children on their way to school. They were out of danger.
  
Eight shops on either side of the highway and two vehicles were badly damaged in the blast, witnesses said.
  
Police cordoned off the area as forensic experts were called in to help with the investigations into the blast, which rocked this city of 650,000 people at the start of the morning rush hour.
  
The explosion went off in the Wellawatte district of Colombo, where minority Tamil residents are concentrated, police said.
  
Meanwhile, defence officials reported that 10 more Tamil Tiger rebels had been killed in fighting in the north.
  
In weekend battles with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the military captured more territory in the coastal district of Mannar, officials said.
  
They placed the military's own losses at three soldiers dead and 12 wounded in Sunday's clashes.
  
So far this year, the defence ministry has reported that security forces have killed at least 1,967 rebels, along with the loss of 120 government soldiers.
  
The government casualty numbers and those given by the rebels cannot be independently confirmed as Colombo bars journalists and rights groups from frontline areas.
  
Sri Lanka's government withdrew from a Norwegian-arranged truce in January. Since then violence has escalated across the north and in the capital.
  
A roadside bomb killed a government minister just outside the capital earlier this year.
  
A Tamil legislator died in a roadside bombing inside rebel-held territory on Thursday. The Tamil Tigers accused security forces of killing the MP, a charge denied by the military.
  
Monday's blast occurred as police and the military tightened security arrangements in Colombo amid fears of Tamil Tiger attacks following a string of recent bombs blamed on the rebels, who are fighting for independence.
  
The latest bombing also coincided with the first council elections in the east after 14 years. The vote came eight months after the LTTE was driven out by government forces.
  
Ten days ago, a suspected Tamil Tiger suicide bomber blew himself up, killing a policeman and injuring six others, as police tried to search his house in the capital.

Date created : 2008-03-10

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